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Stand with Refugees and Immigrants on Japanese American Incarceration Day of Remembrance

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RE: Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership Stands with Refugees and Immigrants on Japanese American Incarceration Day of Remembrance and We Ask that the City of Columbus Adopt Sanctuary City Status.

Dear State Treasurer Mandel, Representative Keller, and Mayor Ginther,

February 19th is a significant date for the Asian American community. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry who had to abandon their jobs, their homes, and their lives to be sent to one of ten concentration camps scattered in desolate, remote regions of the country. No Japanese Americans were ever charged or convicted of espionage or sabotage against the United States. Yet they were targeted and imprisoned for years due unfounded fear and racial and ethnic discrimination.

This year on the Day of Remembrance, the Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership (OPAWL) is saddened by the increased anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments in Ohio and throughout the U.S. These sentiments, manifested in federal policies, rhetoric by elected officials, and increased vandalism and violence against immigrants and refugees based on religious, racial, and ethnic stereotypes parallel the events which led to the Japanese American internment, Chinese Exclusion Act, and discrimination against Jewish Americans and refugees during the Holocaust.

As Asian and Asian American women and residents of Columbus, many of us are immigrants or daughters of immigrants - coming from Japan, India, Thailand, China, Philippines and Korea among others. Some of our families were refugees not long ago, coming from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. We remember the welcome that we and our families received in Ohio, as we made this state our home and built our American Dream.

Adopt Policies of Safety and Inclusion for All Ohioans

We are saddened to see immigrants and refugees today not receiving the same welcome due to policies which threaten to separate families, and endanger the lives of immigrants who are deported and refugees whose lives are in limbo as they escape genocide in Somalia, Syria and other nations. In the face of an increasingly hostile national climate, we ask our elected officials from Ohio to stand up for immigrants and adopt policies of safety and inclusion for Ohioans regardless of their faith, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexuality. 

We condemn the anti-Muslim rhetoric Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has perpetuated, including calling CAIR a terrorist group and wing of the Hamas. Discrimination based on religion, race, and ethnicity are antithetical to American values, and as a state official in the public eye, Mandel’s statements have fanned the flames and justify violence experienced by Muslim (or perceived to be Muslim) communities in Ohio.

Further, we are disturbed by and oppose the anti-immigrant bill proposed by Representative Candice Keller of District 53 and Ohio Treasurer Mandel, and oppose any legislation that would prohibit local governments from adopting Sanctuary City policies, and require law enforcement to use local funding for federal matters related to the deportation of immigrants. We also oppose any legislation that holds elected officials criminally or civilly liable for crimes which they did not themselves commit, as this would be a violation of our 8th amendment protection against disproportionate punishment. We also strongly reject the language used in this proposed legislation which racially stereotypes all immigrants as criminals.

Immigrants Strengthen Ohio’s Economy

Immigrants make our communities stronger, more diverse, and bring a spirit of entrepreneurship to their communities. Between 2006 and 2010 immigrants founded over 20,768 business in Ohio (1). In Columbus and Cincinnati, respectively, they paid more than $258 million and $189 million in state and local taxes (2). In 2010, over 65,000 undocumented immigrants worked in Ohio, and contributed $72.8 million in state and local taxes (3). Deportation of all undocumented immigrants in Ohio would result in a loss of over 25,000 jobs, a $4 billion decrease in economic activity, and a $1.8 billion decrease in gross state product (4). Furthermore, the local cost of taking on responsibilities of the US. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will significantly increase the cost burden and decrease staff time at local agencies. Keller and Mandel should be focused on representing and supporting local residents and contributors to the economy and state treasury, rather than burdening local governments with additional costs and responsibilities that will ultimately be unlikely to be reimbursed by the federal government.

Columbus as a City for All Residents

Finally, we are heartened by Columbus Mayor Ginther’s executive order signed on January 30, which opposes the use of city resources to enforce federal immigration policy, and supports further refugee settlement in Columbus. We are also encouraged by the Columbus City Council’s decision to establish a legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees who may be affected by the executive orders on immigration. We commend our city council members, particularly Zach Klein and Elizabeth Brown, for taking a courageous stand for all residents of our city, and ask that the City of Columbus take the next step by becoming an official Sanctuary City.  Furthermore, we ask for increased police accountability and training for officers engaging with diverse communities, including immigrants, residents who do not speak English, and people with disabilities, including mental illness.

About Ohio Progressive Asian Women's Leadership

The Ohio Progressive Asian Women's Leadership is a community-based organization committed to empowering AAPI women to be leaders in their community. We are unapologetically inclusive of LGBTQIA individuals in the AAPI community, and we advocate for immigrant and refugee communities, reproductive justice, and mental health in the AAPI community. We advocate for immigration policies that are just and compassionate and not based on untrue stereotypes and fear of the “other”. We believe that all immigrants regardless of their status or country of origin deserve a chance to pursue the American dream.




Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership

Asian American Community Services

Bhutanese Nepali Community Center


Central Ohio Worker’s Center

Jewish Voices for Peace – Central Ohio

Lao Volunteer Donation Association

My Project USA

Progressive Peace Coalition










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