This statement originally appeared in Metro News on July 2, 2018.
It seems like every day, we get another reminder that our federal government is on a path of discrimination and divisiveness.
Immigrant children have been separated from their parents as they sought to follow the legal path for asylum from violence at home. Immigrants are being grabbed off the streets on the way to work. Our President has placed, and the Supreme Court has allowed, a blanket ban on entry to our nation on Muslims from certain countries. And close to home, we know an increased presence of immigration agents in our courthouses, on farms and in other public areas where communities gather has sought to create fear and stress among immigrant and refugee communities.
We may be limited in what we can do to stop these inhumane acts, but we are empowered to make a difference in greater Portland, and we will make every effort to do so.
At Metro, we have made a commitment to racial equity which includes being guided by our Strategic Plan to Advance Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. One key principle of this commitment is to ensure that Metro creates safe and welcoming services, programs and destinations for communities of color, including immigrants and refugees.
Here is our pledge:
Metro employees will follow state law. We are here to serve people who live in our region, not immigration authorities.
We don’t care about where you came from or why you’re here. We care about you. If you are visiting Metro’s parks, natural areas, the Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Metro’s cemeteries, the Expo Center or Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, you are our guest in enjoying what our region has to offer. And we reaffirm the rights of immigrants and refugees, no matter what their status, to due process and the right to remain silent if asked for documentation.
We are all better off when we spend time in nature, learn more about wildlife conservation or enjoy a show. Everyone deserves private space to honor a loved one. Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy time with their friends and family. And no child should ever have to watch their parents be asked “Papers, please” when spending a day at the park.
We support efforts for comprehensive, common-sense immigration reform.
For more than 130 years, the Statue of Liberty has been a beacon of hope for those living in oppressive, impoverished or dangerous countries. From the Irish escaping famine, to Italians fleeing discrimination, to Syrians trying to find a safe place away from poison gas attacks on civilians, people have turned to us as the place that would accept them.
Many of them brought children with them, children who have known no other country but the United States. They were born in the Soviet Union, in Mexico, in Myanmar and Somalia and Nicaragua, but they are home here now. They have earned the right to seek permanent citizenship here without having to go to a country they know nothing of.
And no person, from any country, should fear seeking asylum in the United States. We are supposed to welcome refugees to our door, not lock their children in wire cages. We need a system that efficiently and fairly judges a person’s asylum claims and treats them with dignity throughout the process.
Metro continues to urge our congressional leaders to support and pass a clean Dream Act, and to restructure our immigration system in a way that honors our American values.
Metro supports Oregon’s sanctuary state regulations.
These regulations give clarity to public employees about their role when immigration agents show up in unexpected places checking people’s papers. We firmly believe that every person who lives in the greater Portland region, regardless of where they come from, deserves to be treated with dignity and enjoy freely, without fear, the quality of life and associated amenities so many of us take for granted.
I want to reiterate – Metro believes in equal access for all. I am disappointed in what we're seeing in our country. We can’t change the nation, but we do commit to work with our communities to do what we can to uphold our American values, particularly the values of racial equity and respect for our communities of color.