LOS ANGELES: Comments last week by a North Carolina congressman approving of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII have sparked a highly publicized response from fellow congressmen and civil-rights activists, highlighting an increasing public concern over homeland security issues.
Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) angered many Asian Americans during a radio call-in show when he disagreed with a caller who was in favor of interning Arab Americans, but voiced understanding of President Roosevelt's decision to create internment camps.
The comments sparked a media firestorm that led to international coverage and calls for Coble to resign his post as chairman of the House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee.
Congressmen Michael Honda (D-CA), who spent his early childhood in a camp, Robert Matsui (D-CA), and David Wu (D-OR) wrote Coble a letter asking for a meeting to "clarify" his comments.
Rather than respond personally, Coble's office replied with a copy of a press release sent out on February 10.
Wu's communications director, Ruben Pulido, noted that Coble ignored the request for a meeting, but said that Wu does not intend to drop the issue. Pulido added that Wu has received numerous calls on the matter from press and constituents.
"It's important to clarify that (Coble) didn't apologize for anything, and he didn't really change any of his positions," said Pulido. "There will be a lot of legislation coming up on how to keep that balance between homeland security and civil liberties. We're expecting to be able to schedule a meeting so that his statements can be explained."
Coble is also facing fax, e-mail and internet protest campaigns. Groups including the Japanese American Citizens League and Yellowworld.org have collected thousands of signatures calling for his resignation from his subcommittee.
Coble did not return calls seeking comment.