At a national press call organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors announcing a Cities’ Day of Immigration Action on Tuesday, Seattle mayor Ed Murray contrasted his own immigrant family past from Ireland to the history of his husband’s family from Japan to highlight why it is “dangerous” during the Trump administration to pit people against each other in a highly-charged immigration debate.
“[Seattle] bears the scars of the expulsion of the Chinese in the 19th century and it bears the scars of the internment of our Japanese-American fellow citizens during the Second World War,” Murray said during the call. “Let me close with this example about how dangerous it is to make these distinctions. My grandparents came to this country from Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. My husband’s grandparents came to this country from Japan at that same time.”
“My grandparents, although they faced those signs ‘No Irish Need Apply,’ didn’t face what my husband’s grandparents faced. My grandparents could become citizens,” Murray continued. “My husband’s grandparents could not. My grandparents could vote. My husband’s grandparents could not. My grandparents could own their bakery in New York. My husband’s grandparents could not own their laundry in Spokane, Washington, but had to put it in the name of their children. They weren’t allowed to vote, own property or become citizens until the 1950s. So one of the most important things I think we are doing today is standing up to those divisions and those attempts to stigmatize any group of people.”
Murray was one of seven mayor to share public remarks about the Cities’ Day of Immigration Action, which has been tweeting under #MayorsStand4All. Other participants included Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (D), Providence mayor Jorge Elorza (D), Anaheim mayor Tom Tait (R), Austin mayor Steve Adler (D), Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia (D) and Gresham (OR) mayor Shane Bemis (R). Complete audio of the press call can be accessed here.
As of this posting, here is the list of mayors who participated in the day’s events or issued statements:
“Mayors speak a common language, which is action,” Garcetti said. “I think all the mayors on this call are just too pro-family to see families divided. Are too pro-law enforcement to see our law enforcement officials turned away from their local law enforcement responsibilities to become immigration agents. We’re too pro-economy to lose the momentum in cities like Los Angeles, where we have over fifty percent of our businesses started by our immigrants.”
All the mayors on the call discussed the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform at a federal level, saying that the current actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not making their communities any safer.
“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, or an East-West Coast issue,” Tait said. “This is a bipartisan, a universal value issue. I believe as mayors we have much credibility on this because we are closest to the issue. We live it. We keep people safe. We protect rights. And we have a broken system.”
During the call, the U.S. Conference of Mayors also confirmed that it would be meeting next week with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.