Judith Armatta

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist and human rights activist

"You Are Not Wanted Here"

Portland, Oregon is the whitest city of its size in the United States. I want to deny living there. It feels shameful even though I did not choose it because of its whiteness. I am third generation Oregonian. My friends and family are here. I love the giant firs, the rivers that bisect the city, the easy access to the ocean and mountains, Powell’s Books. I hate its lack of diversity and the racism that lies at its root: Oregon’s original sin.

When Oregon was on the verge of statehood, granted in 1859, it was divided between those who wanted to allow slavery and those who did not. The compromise was to prohibit slavery (and thus competition from people using free labor), but also to prohibit African Americans from residing in the state. While this was not enforced, it sent a powerful message: “If you are African American, you are not wanted here.”

“Delegates to Oregon's constitutional convention submitted an exclusion clause to voters on November 7, 1857, along with a proposal to legalize slavery. Voters disapproved of slavery by a wide margin, ensuring that Oregon would be a free state, and approved the exclusion clause by a wide margin. Incorporated into the Bill of Rights, the clause prohibited blacks from being in the state, owning property, and making contracts. Oregon thus became the only free state admitted to the Union with an exclusion clause in its constitution. [emphasis added] Gregory Nokes.

The constitutional exclusion remained until 1926. Other racist language in the constitution was not removed until 2002. Oregon originally ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but within a few years rescinded its ratification and did not correct it until 1973. The state resisted ratifying the 15th Amendment (Voting Rights) until 1959.

The reverse side of racial exclusion is that white people were drawn to Oregon because of its whiteness. I don’t know, but I pray that my ancestors weren’t part of this diaspora. It’s quite possible they were. This is our shameful legacy. It is why white supremacists feel more at home here than African Americans. It is why black people make up only 2% of Oregon’s population and 9.3% of its prison population.

“In 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Act, a piece of legislation designed to promote White settlement in the Oregon Territory by expropriating Native American land and giving it to Whites for free, causing a population boom of White settlers of 300 percent. The move to Oregon for many White settlers was motivated by a desire to create an all-White society free from the racial tensions brewing before the start of the American Civil War. The first steps taken to create this all-White society involved bloody battles against Native American peoples and their eventual compulsory removal from their land.” [citations omitted]

Oregon in the 1920’s had the highest population of Ku Klux Klan members in the U.S. They can be seen posing for photographs with Portland’s officials. Another photo shows the KKK with members of the Royal Riders of the Red Robe, a Klan auxiliary of foreign born Protestants. The Klan’s philosophy is evident in its motto: “’100 percent Americanism,’ an ideology that developed during World War I as a reaction to the perceived threat to national unity posed by the influx of non-Protestant, non-English-speaking immigrants.” Sound familiar?

In 1988, three men associated with White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat Mulegeta Seraw, an Ethiopian student, to death on a Portland street. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued Tom Metzger, head of WAR, his son, and WAR for incitement of murder. An Oregon jury returned a $12.5 million verdict in favor of the estate of Mr. Seraw, despite Metzger’s defense that he was merely exercising his First Amendment Rights. The verdict bankrupted WAR.

In more recent years (with the election of a black president, followed by the hate-filled rhetoric of a bigoted president), we’ve seen the rise of white militias (such as the Oath Keepers, active in Oregon), white supremacist, and white separatist groups. The number of anti-Muslim organizations in the U.S. grew from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A report by the Council for American-Islamic Relations found that hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent from 2014 to 2016.

Once on the fringe, these hate groups now march in Portland streets and propagandize and proselytize on the internet. Prisons, too, are a breeding ground for white supremacist gangs, and Oregon, like the rest of the country, has grotesquely expanded the number of people we lock up. Jeremy Christian spent eight years in Oregon prisons. According to one person who knew him before he was sent up, it was there he connected with white hate groups and became radicalized. We gave up on prison as rehabilitative long ago.

On May 27, 2017, Jeremy Christian verbally assaulted two young women, one black, the other Muslim on a MAX train. Christian is a self-proclaimed white separatist. He reportedly yelled at the women “Get off the bus and get out of the country.” When three men intervened, he killed two (Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky John Best) and seriously injured the third (Micah David-Cole Fletcher). The three men were white Portlanders, one was Jewish. Will this send a message to white supremacists seeking to move here? They are planning to rally in downtown Portland on June 4. While they are free to speak, we do not welcome those who promote hate.

We honor Taliesin, Rick, and Micah and embrace the two young women who were vilified. This kind of courage is also Oregon’s legacy. We can’t change Oregon’s history or increase Portland’s diversity overnight. But we can make it welcoming to all those who seek a community striving for inclusion and the enrichment it brings. As civil rights attorney Arjun Singh Sethi wrote in The Washington Post: “Attacks like Portland’s will keep happening unless we all fight racism, simply being sorry isn’t enough.”

Portland is also enriched by numerous groups promoting diversity and fighting against hate (links to a few are given below). One of them, the Asian and Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), provides suggestions for how we can grow a better community:

“We continue to affirm our support for those who have been terrorized and traumatized, and seek community-driven solutions to address the root causes of oppression. We uplift local efforts including; 1) ending racial profiling and establishing strong community centered police accountability; 2) ensuring all students have access to quality ethnic studies education; 3) creating safe cultural spaces for communities to gather, and; 4) educating to counter hate ideologies and indoctrinations especially amongst our youth.”

We can also support those who are working against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia – with our time and/or money. And we can look to them for guidance and information to help us move forward. I will end with another thought from APANO:

"These times of fear and violence require us to reflect deeply on root causes, and is not an excuse to over-police our communities. May more Oregonians take action to interrupt hate and stand for love. In these terrible moments, we are reminded of our fragile humanity and the need to build institutions that function as systems of care and are focused on the inherent worth and dignity of all people.”

Links (not exhaustive by any means): Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes: https://oregoncahc.org/

Unite Oregon: www.uniteoregon.org

Change Lab, Race File: www.racefiles.com

APANO: www.apano.org

Coalition of Communities of Color: www.coalitioncommunitiescolor.org

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO): https://irco.org

NAACP Portland Chapter: www.portlandnaacp1120.org

Urban League of Portland: https://ulpdx.org

Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA): https://nayapdx.org

Western States Center: www.westernstatescenter.org

Rural Organizing Project: www.rop.org

Partnership for Safety and Justice: www.safetyandjustice.org

Black Lives Matter Portland: https://blackpdx.com

Basic Rights Oregon: www.basicrights.org

Southern Poverty Law Center: www.splcenter.org

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): www.cair.org

Convicting the Innocent

Last week I attended the Oregon Innocence Project's annual fundraising event (given my limited income, I have no business contributing but I always do!). There was a full house -- lots of well-heeled lawyers. Stephen Wax, OIP legal director -- formerly federal public defender for 31 years, gave an update of their work. Here are some highlights.

In their three years of existence, they have received about 350 requests from prisoners to investigate their cases and have investigated 238 -- since the beginning of the OIP three years ago. The majority of the requests are from people convicted of sex offenses. Forty-six percent (46%) of these cases involved a child. The OIP has taken on four cases, two involve sex offenses, one is a murder with a death sentence, another is manslaughter. In two of the cases, the prosecutors have cooperated in securing DNA testing. In the capital murder case, the prosecutor refuses to cooperate, despite considerable evidence of innocence. (Steve didn't say who the prosecutors are.) Sixteen (16) people convicted in Oregon have been exonerated to date for a total of 65 lost years.

Two of the San Antonio Four (Anna and Cassandra) were special guests and talked about their ordeal and their eventual exoneration 20 years after being charged. The four Latina women had recently come out as gay. The seven and nine year old nieces of one were coerced by their father to make the allegations of gang rape. Homophobia contributed substantially to their prosecution and ultimate conviction. The women refused to plea bargain because they were innocent. Three were sentenced to 15 years, the girls' aunt received a 37 1/2 year sentence. While in prison, they refused sex offender treatment for the same reason, their innocence, and, as a result, spent time in solitary confinement. One woman had two small children, another was pregnant and had a 2-year-old, when they went to prison. The women served from 12 to 16 years in prison. Now, they are traveling throughout the U.S. to tell their story. They were exonerated in November 2016. Here's CNN's story: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/24/us/san-antonio-four-exonerated/

Not included, but what the women told us last night:

1. The nieces' father made up the charge because their aunt refused to date him.

2. The father later married another woman who had two sons. They had a child together. After they divorced, the father coerced their daughter to accuse one of the sons of sexual abuse. He was found guilty and sent to prison at 17 and is now a registered sex offender for life. The father has not yet met his karma.

While Texas will compensate these four women for the lost years, Oregon has no compensation law for those wrongfully convicted. Nationwide, the Innocence Project reports 2,028 exonerations, for a total of 17,693 years lost. Forty-seven percent (47%) of these exonerees were black, 12% here Hispanic. Thirty-nine (39) percent were convicted of murder, 15% of sexual assault, 11% of child sexual abuse.http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/Exonerations-in-the-United-States-Map.aspx

Oregon Innocence Project: www.oregoninnocence.org


By “decisively” bombing Syria, Donald Trump, the clown, has suddenly become America’s hero. Rapidly jumping on the bandwagon, pundits and pols and average Americans left questions about the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in the dust, as well as the health care debacle. Who wants to bet the polls will show a surge in support for The Donald?

Trump was acting out America’s foundational myth when he ordered a missile attack on Syria. Americans, responding from psycho-social memory, swooned. Trump became the knight in shining armor who rescues the damsel in distress, the frontiersman who rescues the maiden kidnapped by Indians. Americans rush to applaud because it is the myth on which America was founded. We are the good guys who defend the weak (read “women and children”) against the bad guys.[1] With one violent blow. No messy rescuing refugees for us.

As much as I want to punish Assad for his chemical weapons attack, my question is “Has the bombing of one airport stopped him?” No one claims there were chemical weapons there. Which means he still has them and can use them again in four years, two years, next month, tomorrow. Did we wipe out some planes? Damage runways? That’s questionable, particularly considering that the U.S. gave Russia advance notice of the strikes. Any reason to believe they didn’t pass along that wee bit of information to their long-time partner, Assad? My second question is “What now?”

While the chemical weapons attack killed 80 people, the six-year long war has taken the lives of 470,000: 207,000 civilians, 24,000 children, 23,000 women, and displaced 11 million more. Over 90% of civilian deaths were caused by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance.[2] Nor was this the first chemical weapons attack since the one in 2013 that took the lives of 1,300. Assad has been using chlorine gas against civilians throughout the war and continues to do so.

The media and politicians rush to spin this as an Obama failure. He didn’t act out our foundational myth, though no one seems to recall that he intended to and pursued diplomacy only after Congress refused to give him authority for air strikes. Instead of doing nothing, he worked out a deal with Putin and Assad in which Assad would get rid of his chemical weapons. He sent a lot of them out of the country, but either held some back or made more. Trump didn’t destroy any, as far as a we know. We say Assad’s a bully and Obama was wrong to trust him. After the bombing, we’re still left with the bully. Unless we bomb Syria back into the Stone Age (as we did Iraq) and drive him from power (as we did Hussein and Qadafi), the situation on the ground in Syria remains pretty much the status quo. And if we do bomb Syria back to the Stone Age? We can see where that got us in Iraq. The rise of a ruthless, headless group of fanatics who revel in killing innocents – wherever.


[1] See Faludi, Susan, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Co. (2007), Chapter 8.

[2]  http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/207_thousand_civilians_were_killed_by_hands_of_the_
Syrian_alliance_Iranian_Russian_en.pdf   (PDF: 207K Civilians Killed by Syrian Alliance)


I AM NOT AFRAID of the Iranian student who has been studying in the U.S., but cannot return from a visit home.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Sudanese doctor working in Cleveland who was forced to leave the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the MIT professor’s Iranian parents who hold green cards, but were prevented from returning to celebrate their grandchildren’s birthdays.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Syrian medical student’s two uncles, two aunts, and two teenage cousins who had immigrant visas but were turned back after arriving in Philadelphia.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the young Iranian scientist and his wife who were planning to take up residence in Boston where he had a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard before their visas were canceled.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Iraqi man who worked for a U.S. contractor in Iraq but was denied entry to visit his wife and son in the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the Kurdish family of five seeking refuge from Iraq who were returned there despite having valid visas.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the three Somali brothers who have been vetted and approved to enter the United States. They’ve been living in a Nairobi refugee camp for 25 years.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the 10-year-old refugee from Iraq where his father was an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

I AM NOT AFRAID of Hajira and her six daughters, all Somali refugees, who have been staying in a Nairobi refugee camp awaiting emigration to the U.S.

I AM NOT AFRAID of the 50 Syrian families fleeing death and the loss of their homes and livelihoods every hour.

I AM NOT AFRAID of refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, seeking asylum from murderous gangs.

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON who devised the immigration ban that has disrupted so many lives, and, at least in one case, caused the death of a 75-year-old Iraqi woman with a green card, who was seeking medical care in the U.S.

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON because he is a white nationalist, who led a media empire into becoming what a former Breitbart editor called a “a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

I AM AFRAID OF STEVE BANNON because he promotes the “alt-right,” a haven of white nationalists.

I AM AFRAID OF JEFF SESSIONS because he praised the 1924 Immigration Act that imposed a racist quota system favoring Northern Europeans and said that between 1924 and 1965 it had “created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America,” The Atlantic reported.

I AM AFRAID OF JEFF SESSIONS because he has been the key bridge between anti-immigrant groups and Congress since 1997. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has chosen white supremacists as his close advisors, directed a massive immigration halt, closing U.S. borders to 60,000 to 100,000 people who have been approved for entry, ordered a wall to be built on the U.S. border with Mexico, tweeted racist, misogynist, xenophobic rants, creating space in normal discourse for white supremacists.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he is commander in chief of the largest military in the world and has the ability to start a nuclear war.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has no respect for the U.S. constitution or international law.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he does not believe in an independent judiciary.

I AM AFRAID OF DONALD TRUMP because he has no respect for the rule of law.

I AM AFRAID . . . .

I AM ENCOURAGED by the federal judges who have stayed the order prohibiting refugees and asylum seekers and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

I AM ENCOURAGED by the State Department employees who have expressed their opposition to his unconstitutional order and those who immediately implemented Judge Robart’s stay of that order, allowing tens of thousands with legitimate visas to enter the U.S.

I AM ENCOURAGED by the thousands of fellow citizens, immigrants, and visitors who rushed to airports across the country to protest Trump's unconstitutional immigration order.

I AM ENCOURAGED by millions of fellow citizens, immigrants, and visitors who have taken to the streets and social networks to protest this fascist-leaning president.


“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.

I read a story in the New York Times today (January 17, 2017): “America or Mexico? An Agonizing Decision,” by Caitlin Dickerson. Rachel McCormick, born in the U.S., and Irvi Cruz, born in Mexico and immigrated illegally to the U.S., met in the U.S., married, and had two girls, Sarah, 4, and Anna, 2. Irvi is not a U.S. citizen and cannot apply for citizenship through his wife because he has traveled back and forth to Mexico several times. To apply now, he would have to leave the U.S. for 10 years.

With Trump threatening to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, Irvi and Rachel are faced with a fateful decision: do they remain in the U.S. waiting for the day Irvi is deported or do they pack up and go to Mexico, a strange land where Rachel and the girls will feel a perplexing and, at times, frightening displacement. As Ms. Dickerson wrote: “So the couple were boxed in by two bad options: take a chance on a new life in the small, struggling town in Mexico where Irvi grew up, or stay here and try to ignore the shaky ground beneath them.”

Nine million families of mixed parentage face this same dilemma. This dilemma is not new, though I knew nothing about its forerunner until I began reading The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell. In addition to forcing 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the U.S. (62% were American citizens) into concentration camps during WWII, the US government arrested and imprisoned Japanese, German, and Italian noncitizen fathers who were on J. Edgar Hoover’s list of “dangerous enemy aliens,” begun in 1936 on orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. There were thousands of them. Their property was confiscated. Their families left destitute. No criminal charges were brought. They received no due process, no legal representation, no trial. The arrestees were not allowed to see the evidence or confront the witnesses against them (some were spiteful neighbors or coworkers). Nor could they appeal.

Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they were arrested and taken from their homes, families, work, and communities. These detainees were sent to a special camp at Crystal City, Texas where they could be reunited with their families who were U.S. citizens. The families had to choose whether to join their loved ones in a prison camp and give up their freedom, or remain separated for the unknown duration of the war and possibly forever. The main purpose of the camp was to gather people the U.S. could exchange for “important” U.S. POWs (diplomats, businessmen, doctors) held in Germany, Japan, and Italy. The program was informally known as “quiet passage.”

The U.S. wasn’t content with “enemy aliens” and their families living in the U.S. They needed more bodies for the one-to-one exchange demanded by Germany. Our government made agreements with 13 Latin American countries to deport Germans, Japanese, and Italians living within them to the U.S., where they would be imprisoned in the Crystal City camp until they could be exchanged. These Latin American immigrants had no ties to the U.S. It was a shocking case of overreach.

Families were faced with a choice: to join their noncitizen parent or husband to be included in what was euphemistically called “repatriation,” or to break up the family, possibly forever. If they joined him in repatriation, they would find themselves in countries they were unfamiliar with, countries at war, where people were starving and could not help, where they had nowhere to live, no means to earn a living. Some died of starvation and illness.

Ms. Russell interviewed a number of the children whose parents were forced to make this choice and tells their tragic stories in this excellent book. Quiet passage was a secret program. It provides a template and a warning. As Ms. Russell concludes: “[T]he issues in the book—the roundup of immigrants, prisoner exchange, the danger of scapegoating in a climate of fear, the trauma of war—are as real today as they were in 1942.”


A foreign power has helped choose our president. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Ireland, Canada, or Norway. Maybe they will come to the rescue as the U.S. falls into chaos or fascism, governed by a cabal of the superclass (read David Rothkopf’s “The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, where a number of Trump’s appointees are discussed). It also wasn’t Iran, the Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, or Cuba, any of which (and more) could legitimately play tit for tat. The U.S. does not have clean hands here.

Now, I know how the Iranians must have felt when the U.S. orchestrated the removal of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, following his nationalization of the oil industry until then controlled by British companies. Or the Congolese when the U.S. aided the Belgians in assassinating Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of an independent Congo, to preserve our access to uranium used in making nuclear weapons. Or the Chileans after the US-backed military coup that ousted progressive leader Salvador Allende, another ‘fearsome’ economic and social reformer. And on and on. . . .

Despite our sins, can we really allow Vladimir Putin (ex-KGB agent) to ruin our already-battered democracy? It took the Iranians (Persians) over 25 years to get rid of the U.S.-friendly Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), and his replacement was anything but a democrat. Chileans voted Pinochet out of office in 1988, after 17 years of human rights violations, including murder and disappearances. We’re hoping for only four years max, but it could be eight – and that’s if the citizens still have a meaningful vote. How can we stop this from happening?

Support the appointment of an independent commission to investigate the CIA’s report. Longtime Executive Director of the American Security Project, Jim Ludes, tweeted: "Intel community must brief electoral college about Russia before vote. EC exists to protect republic from candidate under foreign influence." Tell your electors to not cast their votes for Russia’s candidate. Contact your ‘elected’ representatives and senators and tell them to show some spine. And the Democratic Party. Or we’ll all be speaking Russian.

Acquiescence is not an option.

Ethnic Cleansing, U.S. Style or "It Can Never Happen Here"

  • A letter left at several homes in McKinney, Texas: “Our new president Donald J. Trump is God’s gift to white nation. We want to get our country back on the right track. We need to get rid of Muslims, Indians, Blacks and Jews.”
  • Letter sent to a mosque in Northern California: “Trump is going to cleanse America. And he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”
  • "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," Trump said in a news release posted to his website on Dec. 7, 2015.
  • “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write tough immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, said in an interview that Trump's policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.
  • “Kobach leaves little doubt that they’re coming for the Muslims. First.” Mark Sumner, “The Precedent for Trump’s Muslim Registry is Japanese Internment Camps,” Daily Kos, November 17, 2016.
  • “You’re going to have a deportation force and you’re going to do it humanely.” Donald J. Trump, December 2015. While Trump now says he will focus first on the “two to three million” undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, it is unclear whether he will stand by his promise to deport the 8 to 9 million who have not violated the law (other than remaining in the country without necessary documents, which includes people brought here as children).
  • “President-elect Donald J. Trump’s promise to deport two million to three million immigrants who have committed crimes suggested that he would dramatically step up removals of both people in the United States illegally and those with legal status. If carried out, the plan potentially would require raids by a vastly larger federal immigration force to hunt down these immigrants and send them out of the country.” By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Julia Preston, “What Donald Trump’s Vow to Deport Up to 3 Million Immigrants Would Mean,” The New York Times, November 14, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/donald-trump-deport-immigrants.html
  • “Earlier this year, Mr. Gingrich called for a new House Un-American Activities Committee to deal with ‘Islamic supremacists.’ That notorious committee’s hearings and the investigations by Senator Joseph McCarthy into suspected Communists represented some of the most severe political repression in American history and destroyed lives. Today, as falsehoods are spread quickly on the internet and accepted as true, this risk may be even more acute.” Faiza Patel, A “'Commission on Radical Islam' Could Lead to a New McCarthy Era,” November 18, 2016, https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/commission-radical-islam-could-lead-new-mccarthy-era

* * *

Maybe I’m slow, but it took me until a few days ago to realize that opposition to immigration and support for deportation of immigrants with or without documents is not solely based on fear of losing jobs. The majority of those targeted for exclusion are Latinos and Middle Easterners. That is not economic based. That is xenophobic based. The fear is of a non-white non-Christian majority, loss of power, and loss of a European and Christian culture. The goal is ethnically cleansing the U.S. of as many “others” as possible to maintain white dominance.

A state can accomplish ethnic cleansing in several ways: by “voluntary” exodus or exchange of populations (unlikely); by forced removal assisted by threats, burning homes, attacking and killing people; by mass murder of a large segment of the hated group. That is called Genocide. I’ve seen it before when I lived in the former Yugoslavia, the violent breakdown and separation of a multiethnic, multi-religious society into ethnic and religious groups: Orthodox Christian Serbs, Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks, Kosovar Albanians (though a large percentage are Muslim, the attempted cleansing of Kosovo was based on ethnicity). Ethnic cleansing begun as a forced movement of people ended in mass murder and the genocide of Bosniak Muslims. It nearly ended in genocide for the Kosovar Albanians. And the once multinational Bosnia-Herzegovina is now split in two: the predominantly Bosniak and Croat republic and Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb republic. After massive loss of life, genocide, and the destruction of cities and homes, the U.S. brokered a deal to end the war in Bosnia (the Dayton Accords), a deal that rewarded the aggressor Bosnian Serbs with the land they’d taken by force.

Before I left for the Balkans, I was chatting with a clerk in a small Grants Pass shop. By then, the Bosnian war had ended and the war in Kosovo was two years away. The clerk decried the fighting among citizens of the same country, neighbor against neighbor. “It could never happen here,” he assured himself. Apparently, his high school history class did not teach about the Civil War . . .

• Or the U.S. government’s genocide and removal of Native Americans from their tribal lands onto reservations.

• Or our second original sin, the kidnapping, rape, and enslavement of millions of Africans who created a big chunk of American wealth.

• Or state constitutional amendments, passed on the eve of the Civil War, prohibiting African-Americans from residing or remaining after dark (including in Oregon). Thousands of towns and cities, called sundown towns, followed suit.

• Or Jim Crow segregation, forced labor on chain gangs, and lynching that eviscerated the emancipation of black people.

• Or the internment of 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during WWII.

• Or the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, prohibiting the immigration of Chinese, not repealed until 1943.

• Or the American Eugenics Movement that sterilized 70,000 people, mostly women, and confined in mental institutions a long list of undesirables (including among many others paupers, blind and hearing impaired people, promiscuous women), a movement brought to its ultimate conclusion by the Nazis, at which point it lost favor in the U.S.

• Or F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover’s and Senator Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt of the forties and fifties that ruined people’s lives for mere association with Communists.

• Or President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 executive order banning gays and lesbians from federal employment.

• Or today’s imprisonment of one out of three young black men, denying millions of them participation in civil society as voters, candidates, and jurors. Think how that might change election results. Forty percent of the 2.2 million people locked up in U.S. prisons are African American. Their percentage in the U.S. population is 6.5%.

Guantanamo Bay lay in the future. As did the Draconian local and state laws banishing anyone convicted of a sex offense (including consensual sex between youth, streaking, public urination, all lumped together with serial rapists) to the outskirts of towns, placing them on a “sex offender” registry, and stamping sex offender into their passports.

Throughout U.S. history, we have isolated and demonized an ever-changing group of people to scapegoat as “the other,” placing them outside constitutional protections. The template was created at the formation of the United States. It’s handy because it can be reused and applied to any disliked group.

Will we ever learn?

To end on a more positive note, I will quote a letter from my senator:

“Like you, I'm stunned.

“This is a dark and disturbing moment for our country, and you have every right to feel the way that you do right now.

“This election result is troubling in what it says about American values and what it means for our future. But that's not a reason to despair. It's a reason to work even harder.

“It's going to be more important than ever in the wake of this election that we stand up for equality, diversity, and justice. That we love and support our fellow citizens, immigrants, refugees, and anyone fearing a surge of hate, discrimination, and exclusion. It's up to us to fight for the values we cherish and the progressive vision we hold dear." Sen. Jeff Merkeley


For 20 years, I was an advocate for women and children subjected to rape and domestic assault. I trained other advocates. I gave speeches. I lobbied the legislature and helped change laws that made a woman’s reputation evidence of consent to sexual assault. I wrote articles, gave presentations to legal colleagues, served on boards and committees, taught college and law school classes. I explained, as did other advocates, that sexual assault was not the victim’s fault, not because of what she wore, where she was, who she was with, or what she was doing. Silence did not equal consent.

            Since Donald Trump’s locker room talk was made public and numerous women came forward to tell of his groping and sexual assaults, tens of thousands of women have tweeted about their own experiences with “alpha” males. Experiences they kept silent about or only shared with one or two trusted friends – because they were ashamed and felt it was their fault, because it is considered normal, something women just have to put up with.

            All of this brought back my own shameful memory of sexual assault when I was a young Congressional aide. In the backseat of a car driven by my boyfriend, I sat next to the Congressman’s campaign director. When he put his hand up my skirt and touched me under my panties, I said nothing. I didn’t scream or tell him to stop. I didn’t announce it to my boyfriend. I endured it. And I felt ashamed because it happened and because I didn’t stop it. Until a few days ago, I never told anyone. Until a few days ago, I never thought of it as sexual assault. I felt complicit. I never looked back on that incident through the lens of rape victim advocate. I never told myself what I told victims. “It’s not your fault.” Even as I write this, I still feel ashamed. Almost 40 years later. I wonder if the campaign director ever felt shame or remorse?

            I’m telling about it now to support what other women have bravely revealed. We live in a rape culture, where men with power have license to use women for their sexual pleasure and as an expression of their dominance. It needs to stop.



• “The United States has more than twice the number of women in jails and prisons than are incarcerated in China, Russia, Brazil, or any other nation.” Equal Justice Initiative, August 26, 2016.

• Between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700%. The Sentencing Project. • The imprisonment rate for women is increasing at a far greater rate than that for men. In Oregon, since 2007, the male population increased 2% while the female population increased 22%. Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ).

• Oregon’s female prison population soared after Ballot Measure 11 passed, necessitating the shift to a new prison in 2001 -- Coffee Creek Correctional Facility

• 70% of women in Oregon’s prisons were convicted of nonviolent property or drug crimes. PSJ.

• 85-90% of women in prison have a history of being victims of violence prior to their incarceration, including |domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse.

• Seventy percent (70%) suffer from a mental illness.

• A 2007 study of women entering Oregon prisons found that 91% had co-occurring substance abuse/dependence and mood disorders.

• For the lack of 20 beds, the Oregon Department of Corrections asked the Legislature for $10 million to open another prison for women.

In 1980, I joined a now-defunct organization, Prisoners’ Legal Services of Oregon, as a staff attorney. At the time, Oregon had three prisons: the ancient maximum security Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP), the medium security Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI), and the women’s prison, Oregon Women’s Correctional Center (OWCC).

Today, there are 14 prisons. OWCC was built to house 80 prisoners. Historical records show a discrepancy regarding the number actually held in the 1980s – anywhere between 57 and 200. The 2015 female population at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, which replaced OWCC in 2001, was at least six times greater at 1,263. The number of black women in prison is three times that of white women; for Latinas it is twice as many.

In 2013, the Legislature passed HB 3194, the Justice Reinvestment Act. Its purpose is to shift money from prisons to less expensive programs that keep people out of prison, such as addiction treatment, mental health services, community corrections, and re-entry programs, and prevent the building of additional costly prisons. Yet recently, only three years later, the Department of Corrections asked the Legislative Emergency Board for $10 million to build another prison for women. After a public outcry, the DOC reconsidered, though the request may still come before the Oregon Legislature in December 2016.

The crux of the problem is Oregon prosecutors who hold the power to decide which crimes to charge and what a defendant will accept as a plea to avoid a trial and possibly longer sentence. According to human rights groups, prosecutors are over-charging, sending more women to prison for longer periods (using Oregon’s Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentencing law*). They impeded and lessened the impact of HB 3194, the 2013 reform. And, some at least, are continuing to undermine efforts to reduce or flatline Oregon’s prison population. This, when Texas has closed three prisons and diverted hundreds of millions of dollars to programs that keep people out of prison.

As Shannon Wight, deputy director at Partnership for Safety and Justice, wrote in a recent Street Roots article:

“For now, though, we must look to county prosecutors to avoid this unnecessary state expense. Due to mandatory sentencing laws in Oregon, prosecutors have almost absolute control over who goes to prison and for how long. Instead of spending millions to open a new prison for women, legislators should be asking prosecutors to find more appropriate ways to sanction and support women who would otherwise go to prison when other approaches to accountability are more effective.

“Opening a new prison will not lower the rates of non-violent crimes, nor will it reduce the number of people affected by such crimes. We know that the most effective approaches to crime involve accountability, treatment and services to help people chart new and successful paths. Helping our community means investing in such programs, not incarcerating more women for non-violent offenses.” (August 18, 2016)


*Measure 11 passed by Oregon citizens in 1994 (and subsequent amendments) established harsh mandatory minimum sentences for 21 crimes. Judges cannot vary from that minimum, often 75 months, though the Oregon Supreme Court held that judges may consider individual circumstances in rare cases. Youth 15 years or older charged with a Measure 11 crime are automatically remanded to adult court and faced with the same mandatory minimum sentences.


In 1875 or thereabouts, my great grandpa left the Ukraine where he’d been sent into military service by the Russian Tsar. He was hungry. The soldiers barely survived on paltry rations. So he ran away. Deserted. And came to America. He was an economic immigrant.

Today, some in the U.S. disparage economic immigrants and want to keep them out. How are they different from my great grandfather? Should he, I wonder, have been denied entry? And, if him, what of the young man, the teenager fleeing drug cartels that will force him to kill or be killed? He seeks safety more than food. What of the young girl fleeing a gang who raped and killed her friend when she declined to be a “girlfriend?” There are treaties that require us to accept asylum seekers. Yet we return them to near certain death or torture.

America, the land of immigrants. Somewhere, along our way, we have forgotten, what is inscribed on a tablet in the pedestal of Lady Liberty:

The New Colossus

By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles.

From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"