These past several weeks have been in so many ways unprecedented, unexpected, unimaginable.
Here in Oregon, across the nation, and around the world, millions expressed hope for unity.
Their outcry has reminded me of a true Oregon story.
A little over 100 years ago, a couple who immigrated from Japan to Hood River had nine children. They worked hard after coming to America and established a successful business and community center.
One of their sons, Minoru Yasui –was the first Japanese American to graduate from the University of Oregon School of Law School and the first Japanese American member of the Oregon Bar.
But, Minoru and his family’s life came to a sudden halt with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fear swept the nation and President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to remain in their homes between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Just a little over a month after the order was signed, Minoru put his personal liberty on the line for justice. He intentionally violated the curfew by walking the streets of Portland. He was arrested and imprisoned for nine months in solitary confinement at the Multnomah County Jail before being ordered to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where he would remain until near the end of the war.
Mr. Yasui eventually established a law practice in Denver, and, until his death in 1986, continued to fight for civil rights for all and for the courts to rule that Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional.
In November 2015, President Obama awarded Mr. Yasui with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award that can be bestowed upon an American citizen. He is the only Oregonian ever to receive this award.
I’ve shared this story a few times over the last few months. And I’ve shared it again because it becomes more and more relevant every day.
A family immigrated to our country and made our state their home. They put their faith in the American way of life and their community prospered as a result.
I am guided by Minoru’s words: “If we believe in America, if we believe in equality and democracy, if we believe in law and justice, then each of us, when we see or believe errors are being made, has an obligation to make every effort to correct them.”
Now, I am just hearing reports that an infant from Iran in desperate need of life saving surgery at OHSU was prevented from entering our country. Not because of who she is or the care she needs, but because of where she is from.
The President’s recent Executive Orders that divide and discriminate do not reflect the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution or the principles we stand for as Oregonians or Americans.
I want to make it very clear that here in Oregon, where thousands have fought for and demanded equality, where millions have put down roots and become integral to our economy, to our culture, and to our way of life – we can not retreat.
As Governor, it is my duty to uphold the civil and human rights of all who call Oregon home.
It is also my duty to prevent any undue harm to our economy and ensure the ability of Oregonians to support their families. These new policies from the White House are being made without regard to the values Oregonian believe in or the economic realities Oregon faces.
We are a state that relies on a diverse workforce that drives innovation in our high-tech Silicon Forest, and supports Oregon’s robust agricultural and timber economies. We are also a state that relies on international relationships to get our goods to market.
And while Oregon competes in a global economy, we face an uncertain future and threats from an administration willing to cut funding that sustains economic growth and supports critical services to Oregonians.
I am deeply disturbed by this.
Today, I am taking three steps to reaffirm our State's commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive place for all.
First, I am calling upon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to bring legal action to oppose the federal government's recent anti-immigrant measures.
These measures are contrary to Oregon values and the founding principles of this nation.
I am also concerned these measures were motivated by animus toward Muslims. Here in Oregon, we will stand united.
Oregon statutes say that discrimination on the basis of religion “menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state."
We should use all the tools available to us within the law to fight for these principles. I thank Attorney General Rosenblum for her partnership.
Second, I am signing an executive order that affirms our commitment to protecting all Oregonians, including immigrants and refugees, and defends religious freedom.
My executive order does several things:
- It sets a policy direction for state workers that they should perform their everyday duties mindful of our inclusive and welcoming attitude toward immigrants and refugees.
- It requires that state agencies not discriminate on the basis of immigration status.
- It broadens our state's 30-year-old law that prohibits law-enforcement agencies from treating undocumented Oregonians as criminals. Under this Executive Order, all state agencies, not just law enforcement, must follow this rule.
- And finally, it forbids state agencies from participating in the creation of a "registry" to identify people based on religion. We have heard threats of a "Muslim registry" at the federal level. I don't know how sincere these threats are, but I want it to be absolutely clear: We will not participate.
The third action I am taking today is communicating my values to our state workforce. Many people in Oregon, including state employees, are concerned for themselves, their neighbors, and their loved ones.
Immigration policy falls under the authority of the federal government and my options are limited by federal law.
But today, I am taking the first steps in doing what I can as Governor to stand up for what we, as Oregonians, believe in.
I remain committed to upholding the civil and human rights of every Oregonian and stand ready to protect our laws and protect our way of life.
United as Oregonians, our voices are important and will be heard.