Japanese Americans Speak out in Support of Accepting Syrian Refugees

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SACRAMENTO --

America has long been a land of opportunity, where immigrants can pursue their dreams.  But there have been moments in history where people like Marielle Tsukamoto were punished for their heritage.

At age 5, during World War II, she remembers being detained.

"I do remember as an adult afterwards, feeling the guilt and the shame of being imprisoned and not really understanding why,” Tsukamoto said.

Seven decades later, for some Japanese Americans, the terror attacks in France have ignited a new debate and brought up old frustrations.

Japanese groups joined Muslim and Sikh leaders in front of Florin Community Hall to speak out against several politicians who announced this week they no longer want to accept Syrian refugees out of fear of terrorism.

Speakers referenced a letter by Roanoke, Virginia, Mayor David Bowers, which compared Japanese internment during World War II to the current concerns over ISIS.

Executive Director of Sacramento’s Council on Islamic Relations Basim El-Karra says the statements made by Bowers and others are detrimental.

"Words have consequences, and these governors don’t realize that since their campaign to attack the refugees, there's been many hate crimes against the Muslim community,” El-Karra said.

As for Tsukamoto, she’s hoping at this time of conflict around the world, America looks to history to guide its actions toward refugees.

"Everybody’s ancestors came from somewhere else, and when they came, many were not welcomed,” Tsukamoto said.

Refugees entering the U.S. go through a thorough screening process.

Following the Paris attacks, Governor Jerry Brown said all Syrian refugees would be fully vetted.