VICTORY! Bill to Honor Oregon Hero Minoru Yasui Passes Oregon Legislature Unanimously
UPDATE: February 24, 2016 - A bill honoring the struggle and legacy of Oregonian Minoru “Min” Yasui, who fought against the incarceration of Japanese Americans, passed unanimously through both the Oregon Senate and House. The legislation designates March 28 of each year as Minoru Yasui Day. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
“With so much anti-immigrant rhetoric in the news, it’s refreshing that Oregon legislators came together across the aisle to support Minoru Yasui Day,” said Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director. “Min’s story is a reminder that we must remain vigilant to protect freedom for all people.”
1,393 supporters signed an ACLU of Oregon petition to create Minoru Yasui Day.
“Minoru Yasui has made all Oregonians and all Americans proud,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D - Salem, after the unanimous vote today.
Born in Hood River in 1916 to Japanese immigrant parents, Minoru Yasui graduated from University of Oregon School of Law and was the first Japanese American admitted to the Oregon State Bar.
On March 28, 1942 in Portland, Yasui deliberately broke the curfew that had been placed on all people of Japanese ancestry under Executive Order 9066. He believed the order, which eventually authorized the forced relocation and incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, was unconstitutional and wanted to bring a challenge in court. Yasui spent nine months in solitary confinement in Multnomah County Jail for the curfew violation and then was sent to Minidoka War Relocation Center, one of the incarceration centers run by the federal government.
Yasui took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they shamefully upheld his conviction. It was later vacated, and he went on to lead an illustrious career as an attorney and community leader. Last year, Yasui was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming the only Oregonian to receive the nation's highest civilian honor.
“Minoru Yasui is a legend to us in Hood River,” shared bill cosponsor Sen. Chuck Thomsen, R - Hood River, in an emotional floor speech.
Members of the Minoru Yasui Tribute Project, a group raising awareness about Yasui’s life, were invited to the Senate floor to hear the discussion and the vote today, including George Nakata, who was incarcerated with his family for three years at Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. Nakata previously testified in support of the bill as it moved through both chambers, sharing his memories of the incarceration camp with legislators.
The group hopes that Oregon students and teachers will mark Minoru Yasui Day by learning about the unfair treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and Minoru Yasui’s fight for equal treatment for all people.
“It is important that we teach our children about this ugly history to ensure we will never repeat the mistakes of our past,” said Holly Yasui, daughter of Minoru Yasui and cofounder of the project.
Advocates will kick-off Minoru Yasui Day celebrations in Portland next month. On March 28, they plan to march from the site of Minoru Yasui’s first law office to the former Portland Police Headquarters where he turned himself in for curfew violation in order to initiate his legal test case.
"Today Min’s legacy has never been more important. It is a call to our national conscience, a reminder of our enduring obligation to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, an America worthy of his sacrifices."
- President Barack Obama
Learn more about Mr. Yasui's life at www.minoruyasuitribute.org.