Event Details

Minoru Yasui Day

Minoru Yasui Legacy Project

University of Oregon

70 NW Couch St, Portland, OR 97209

Start Date: 03/28/2020 10:00 AM

End Date: 03/28/2020 1:30 PM

Beyond the Refugee Crisis: Learning from our Past and Re-envisioning America’s Immigration Policies

Please join us on March 28 to discuss the reasons why refugees and immigrants are seeking to settle in the U.S, what states/cities/countries have taken a stand for refugee and immigration rights, and what YOU can do to make a difference in shifting our draconian ways of addressing a worldwide humanitarian issue. The time is now to make changes. In the spirit of Minoru Yasui who stood up against the injustices done to Japanese Americans as well as other communities, we say Stop Repeating History.

Who was Minoru Yasui?
Born in Hood River, Oregon and educated at the University of Oregon, Minoru Yasui became the first Japanese American attorney to become a member of the Oregon State Bar. On March 28, 1942, he challenged the constitutionality of the military curfew imposed upon Japanese Americans during World War II by intentionally violating the curfew. His conviction went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he was not successful and lost. Forty years later, in 1983, his case was re-opened due to the discovery of new evidence showing there was no military necessity for the unconstitutional treatment given to Japanese during World War II. A writ of error coram nobis was brought in the U.S. District Court of Oregon and the court vacated his prior 1943 conviction. That suit, while vitally important, did not represent his entire life’s work.

Yasui was a civil and human rights leader who fought for the rights of marginalized communities including those newest to this country. His work was community-oriented and cross-culturally focused. His advocacy helped form organizations in the African American, Latinx, Native American and Asian American communities in Denver.

What is the Minoru Yasui Legacy Project?
In 2014, a group of community members, attorneys, activists, and Yasui family members came together to nominate Minoru Yasui for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Though this effort was based in Portland, Oregon, the nomination received support from people nationwide, including Washington State, Colorado, California, Illinois, Utah, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia. Holly Yasui and Peggy Nagae co-founded the Project.

In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Yasui, posthumously, for having dedicated his life to public service, social justice advocacy, and civil and human rights. Yasui is the only person from Oregon to have received this honor. The following year, the Oregon legislature unanimously passed a bill to name March 28 as Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon. Governor Kate Brown fittingly signed the bill into law on March 28, 2016.

That band of Yasui supporters and Yasui family members are now the Minoru Yasui Legacy Project (MYLP). The Mission of the Minoru Legacy Project is to defend civil rights and advance social justice. MYLP seeks to speak out against injustice in all its forms and to develop programs to explore racism and resist oppression in the context of the Japanese American experience and cross-cultural solidarity. They do this work to commemorate and continue the courageous leadership of Minoru Yasui. And, they stand on the moral authority of Japanese Americans who suffered great injustices in World War II concentration camps and say, “Stop repeating history.”

What is Minoru Yasui Day?
This day, March 28, 2020, commemorates the life and work of a civil and human rights activist. We envision Minoru Yasui Day as an opportunity to convene a diverse group of people and organizations to commemorate his legacy by engaging in interactive discussions, and to support the vision of a more compassionate America by identifying proactive steps we each can take to re-envision this country’s refugee and immigration policies. This year’s program will include a panel, keynote speaker, and breakout sessions to explore past immigration and refugee policies and to identify proactive ways forward.

Our topic for Minoru Yasui Day 2020:
Refugees and Immigrants Separating children from their parents at the southwest border has ignited a broad emotional outcry not often seen in the U.S.’s long-running immigration debate. This situation, however, is more about their status as refugees rather than immigrants. “Refugees are people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm," the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says.

Children fall within a special class that are accorded a full immigration hearing instead of being turned away or sent back to determine if they have a valid claim for asylum. What has that meant for these children? In 2019, 69,550 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody – a 42% increase from 2018 – and spent more time apart from families and in shelters than in prior years. The Trump administration’s series of strict immigration policies has increased the time children spend in detention, despite the government’s own acknowledgment that this treatment causes harm to the children.

The plight experienced by refugees and children is part of the longstanding debate on immigration. An immigrant is someone who chooses to resettle in the U.S. to seek legal residency and eventually citizenship. Many immigrants, however, do not have that legal status and are undocumented and subject to deportation. The most recent Pew Research estimate puts the total number of unauthorized immigrants in 2017 at 10.5 million. Both Democrats and Republicans alike have declared the U.S. immigration system "broken," but Congress has been deadlocked for years on how to reform immigration laws.

Another group of undocumented individuals are Dreamers who came to the U.S. before age 16. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the future of these Dreamers, who number approximately 700,000, pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rental payments each year. Annually, their households pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes. Nearly 1.5 million individuals live in households with a DACA recipient, including more than a quarter million American-born children of DACA recipients.