September 4, 2015

Press Release: Open Letter on Racist Political Rhetoric

September 4 ,2015

Media Contacts:
Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, 503-512-0490/
Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)

Andrea Miller, 503-551-6573/
Executive Director, Causa

Oregon Leaders Speakout Against Hateful Political Comments

Oregon -- Responding to a rise in hateful political rhetoric heading into the Elections of 2016, Oregon elected and community leaders have issued an Open Letter calling on candidates and politicians to publicly pledge to reject xenophobic and racist political comments and focus on the policy issues such as comprehensive immigration reform and growing income inequality.

“Racist political speech causes real harm in our communities, fueling bullying and dehumanizing stereotypes. Staying neutral is not an option,” says Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Oregon’s oldest and largest statewide advocacy group for Asian and Pacific Islanders, adding, “we need leaders to publicly counter hate speech and refocus on the issues like policies to support low-wage working families and continuing to improve access to affordable healthcare regardless of citizenship.”

Signatories include electeds and Oregon’s leading community organizations working for racial equity and immigrant rights. Full text of the Open Letter is below.


Open Letter: Community Leaders Speak Out Against Hateful Political Comments

September 4th, 2015

As we enter the 2016 Presidential Election, and an ultra competitive Oregon landscape with ballot measures and statewide races, we feel compelled to call out increasingly divisive comments and actions. In the news recently, a City Councilor in Springfield OR publicly opposed a Salvation Army minister because his Pacific Islander race would bring a “minority element”, anti-immigrant forces are proposing statewide ballot measures targeting immigrant families, and Presidential candidates are engaging in hateful rhetoric that demean our communities to win political points. For the sake of our democracy, our diverse communities, and our future, we can do better.

The stereotypes of Asian and Latino communities as “anchor babies”, “birth tourists” and “criminals”, simply inflame racist and xenophobic attitudes of some voters who fear changing demographics, rising electoral power of communities of color, and distract from the real policy issues like living wage jobs, reproductive justice, and comprehensive immigration reform.

Voters deserve the facts - (1) Communities of color are strengthening America’s economy, boosting the average wages and stimulating investment., (2) Overall crime is on decline thanks to a shift towards prevention and restorative justice, and away from over-incarceration. (3) The vast majority of immigration is about keeping families together, protecting, providing and reuniting with loved ones.

The recent comments made by politicians in the media are stigmatizing, portraying Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos as the perpetual foreigner, dismissing our strong roots, and ignoring the generations of contributions immigrants, refugees and people of color have made, and treating us as expendable. These expressed views can have damaging consequences that have historically led to the incarceration and removal of families, employment discrimination, bullying in schools, and hate crimes.

We are also mindful of how the struggles of Asians and Latinos are linked with Black communities, and how rhetoric around immigrants has been used to distance our communities from anti-Black sentiments, Black communities whose historical role in creating the wealth of this nation has never been fully recognized. We stand for the rights, resources and recognition for all communities to thrive, and against the over-criminalization, over-policing, economic disinvestment and political neglect that has disproportionately impacted Black communities.

We demand better from our leaders. We expect legitimate candidates and elected officials to engage in meaningful policy dialogue with constituents, not pit communities against one another with racially coded messages. We all have a responsibility to counter the anti-immigrant rhetoric with efforts to understand the root causes of economic inequality. We need solutions instead of scapegoats. We call on all candidates and political leadership to publicly pledge to reject dehumanizing and deceiving political rhetoric, and to instead promote collaboration with diverse communities. Oregon and our country can and will do better.

Add your name here

Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director
Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)

Andrea Miller, Executive Director

Carmen Caballero Rubio, Executive Director
Latino Network

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Board of Commissioners

State Representative Lew Frederick
North/Northeast Portland

State Representative Jessica Vega Pederson
Southeast Portland

State Representative Rob Nosse
Southeast Portland

State Senator Michael Dembrow
Northeast and Southeast Portland

State Senator Chip Shields
North/Northeast Portland

Metro Councilor Sam Chase
Northwest/North & Inner Portland

Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey
District 1

Ramon Ramirez, President
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos (PCUN)

Kayse Jama, Executive Director
Center for Intercultural Organizing

Alberto Moreno, Executive Director
Oregon Latino Health Coalition

Tom Chamberlain, President
Oregon AFL-CIO

Ken Allen, Executive Director
AFSCME Local 75

Nancy Haque & Jeana Frazzini, Co-Directors
Basic Rights Oregon

David Rodgers, Executive Director
ACLU of Oregon

Michelle Stranger-Hunter, Executive Director
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon

Meg Niemi, President
SEIU Local 49

Jonathan Ostar, Executive Director
OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Julia Meier, Executive Director
Coalition of Communities of Color

Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie, Director of Refugee Resettlement
Catholic Charities

Anselmo Villanueva, Executive Director
DisOrient Film Festival of Oregon

Nikki Fisher, Executive Director
The Bus Project

Aubrey Harrison, Executive Director
Oregon Voice

Mel Rader, Executive Director
Upstream Public Health

Sharon Gary-Smith, Executive Director
MRG Foundation

Matt Morton, Executive Director
NAYA Family Center

Gloria Lee, President
Chinese American Citizens Alliance Portland

Darlene Huntress, Executive Director
Oregon Action

Andrea Paluso, Executive Director
Family Forward Oregon

Misa Joo
Pan Asian Community Alliance of Lane County

David Tam
Eugene, OR

Ann Wetherell
Salem, OR

Paul Millius
Portland, OR

Michael Bloom
Portland, OR