Oregon Leaders Urge Candidates To Take Stand Against Xenophobic Rhetoric

APANO participating at Causa's May Day march for immigrant rights at the Capitol in Salem.
APANO participating at Causa's May Day march for immigrant rights at the Capitol in Salem.Courtesy Causa

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By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

A coalition of almost 40 Oregon elected and community leaders have come together to urge political candidates at the local, state, and national levels to reject xenophobic and racist political speech, and to instead focus on policy issues like comprehensive immigration reform and growing income inequality.

This comes after Springfield City Councilor David Ralston publicly opposed Mitham Clements, a Pacific Islander Salvation Army officer for a police advisory committee because his race “would just bring another minority element” to the police panel, and after increasing concerns about national presidential candidates using divisive racist stereotypes like “anchor babies,” “birth tourists,” and “criminals.” Oregon also has statewide ballot measures targeting immigrant families looming.

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"Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos live, work, study, raise families, and pray as contributing members of Oregon,” Andrea Miller, Executive Director of Causa, Oregon's Latino immigrant rights organization, told NBC News. “As organizations that represent a diversity of communities, we felt compelled to speak out against recent hateful political rhetoric nationally, inappropriate racial remarks occurring at the local level, and statewide policy attacks that impact all our communities.”

Rather than stigmatizing Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos as “perpetual foreigners” or pitting one ethnic group against another, leaders are urging candidates to recognize the contributions that communities of color make to the economy and to the country.

“Racist political speech causes real harm in our communities, fueling bullying and dehumanizing stereotypes,” said Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), in a statement. “Staying neutral is not an option. 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.”