Durbin Compares Muslims' 'State of Mind' to Interned Japanese Americans During WWII

July 12, 2017

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) compared the lives of Muslims in America today to the plight of Japanese Americans who were interned throughout World War II during a Senate hearing for Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump's nominee for FBI director.

Japanese Americans were put in internment camps after Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and the U.S. government later apologized and issued reparations. Durbin said that Muslims in Illinois have spoken to him about their fears, but he said the comparison to internment camps was his "impression."

"I said to you that it is my impression in meeting with Muslim Americans in my state—families and individuals—they are in the same state of mind today as Japanese Americans were during World War II when many were headed to internment camps," Durbin said. "What can you say on the record now, if you were chosen as the director of the FBI, about your relationship working with patriotic, God-fearing, lawful Muslim Americans in our nation?"

Wray responded that he had good relations with Muslims in the past and would try to make the bureau work for all Americans.

"I think the FBI director and the FBI need to be the FBI and FBI director for all Americans, including Muslim Americans," Wray said. "My experience in terrorism investigations has been that some of the best leads we ever got were from members of that community, from Muslim Americans."

Durbin did not mention Trump or elaborate on why his comparison was appropriate. Japanese Americans in internment camps were treated as potential enemies of the state and forced to live in captivity, while the federal government has not singled out Muslim Americans in a similar way.

Trump has received criticism for his treatment of Muslims primarily because of his travel ban, which has temporarily restricted travel from six majority-Muslim countries over terrorism concerns but has done nothing to Muslims living in the U.S. already. The travel ban does not apply to the vast majority of Muslims worldwide, but critics have questioned Trump's motives because he had suggested banning Muslims from coming to the U.S. early in his campaign.

Durbin has also criticized other aspects of Trump's immigration policy. In a letter to the president, he called Trump's policy on guest workers "cruel and un-American."

"Rather than common-sense reforms to protect American workers, you have prioritized cruel and un-American policies that harm our economy, do not make us safer, and are inconsistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants," Durbin wrote to Trump.