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Take it from a Japanese-American internee: Don't stigmatize Syrians

Take it from a Japanese-American internee: Don't stigmatize Syrians
A man holds up a sign as migrants and refugees cross the Greece-Macedonia border on Nov. 19. (Sakis Mitrolidis / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, I was sent to the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming as part of this country's guttural reaction to the attack. At that time, I was an American citizen, age 11/2.

My uncle was awarded the Purple Heart as a veteran of the Army's 442nd Infantry Regiment, an almost entirely Japanese American combat unit. My father was imprisoned at the U.S. penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., when he and the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee raised the issue of the constitutionality of drafting Japanese American men from the concentration camps to serve in the United States armed forces. My first memory as a child was being told not to cross the barbed-wire fence because we would be shot.

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There was palpable fear and hatred of Americans of Japanese ancestry in 1942. And it is happening again with the call to close our borders to the Syrian refugees, and the mayor of Roanoke, Va., calling for concentration camps like those created by the government during World War II. Is history repeating itself? Where is our humanity? Have we learned nothing in the last 70 years?

Grace Kubota Ybarra, Campbell, Calif.

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To the editor: Historically, refugees from war zones have been elderly men and women and children. The young men, mostly, stayed back to fight. From all the photos we are seeing today, this doesn't seem to be the case with Syria. It makes one wonder about the legitimacy of the term "refugee" for many of these people.

If the United States agrees to take in Middle Eastern refugees, then they should be those most likely to be truly of refugee status: women, children and old men.

Certainly, this would relieve some in the United States of the fear many have of terrorists being among those coming into the country as refugees.

It would seem to me that the healthy young men who are fleeing would best serve their country by staying home and trying to make their homeland a better place for their weaker family members.

Robert Braley, Bakersfield

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To the editor: Amazing! The chest-thumping party of "bring it on" is quaking in its boots over the possibility that the traumatized refugees from Iraq and Syria may include terrorists. Never mind that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees.

I think every church in America should sponsor a refugee family. We are in far more danger from our homegrown terrorists than from our immigrant population.

Patricia Maurer, Glendale

To the editor: I see at least four stories of love and irony arising from the Syrian war.

First, the influx of Syrian refugees made conservatives fall so in love with homeless veterans who need services before any refugees that they will now oppose future wars and will support more mental health benefits for veterans.

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Second, liberals fell so in love with Syrian refugees that they will now confront President Obama about his arming of terrorist rebels and escalating the Syrian conflict.

Third, Americans fell so in love with the French that they'll no longer see socialism as the Great Satan.

And fourth, France fell so in love with Americans that they'll no longer call us ugly.

There's nothing like wartime romance.

Marc Etienne Angelucci, Glendale

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