For the second time in 13 months Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle has publicly blasted the Trump administration for its immigration policies.
In a July 19 email to employees, Boyle said a long-planned visit from an important international customer would not be happening. Despite Columbia’s best efforts, he wrote, the federal government refused to grant the person a visa.
The administration apparently acted out of concern “that the person might actually try to stay in the United States (instead of returning to his home country, where his business and all of his family is located),” Boyle wrote. “The government knew the person was our business partner, that we fully supported the visit and depended on it to grow our business. But the fear that someone might be an ‘immigrant’ prevented a short trip to our sales meeting.”
Boyle said his customer’s plight took on a new significance Thursday after the eruption of the “Send her back” controversy. In recent speeches and tweets, Trump has fiercely attacked four rookie members of Congress, all of whom happen to be liberal Democrats and women of color. One of the four, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is a Somali immigrant. The three others were born in the United States.
Trump’s attack prompted a Greenville, N.C. crowd last week to begin chanting “Send her back, Send her back…”
The moment drew angry denunciations from the left and full-throated approval from Trump supporters. It was a chilling illustration of the political chasm that divides this country.
“I saw the news that the President of the United States had been using Twitter to tell some members of Congress to go back to the countries they are “from” (even though all are U.S. citizens and three of the four he targeted are born in the U.S.)” Boyle wrote. “That kind of taunting language is far more extreme than the refusal to process a routine visa application, but there is a theme through both that should be unacceptable in any organization and certainly at the top of our government.”
Boyle reminded his staffers that Columbia exists today as one of the state’s largest private companies only because his mother, Gert Boyle, found refuge and welcome after fleeing Nazi Germany in 1937.
“We understand, from personal experience, what it means when government leaders demonize any group as being inferior, unworthy, and fundamentally unwelcome to be a part of a country,” Boyle wrote. “We were incredibly fortunate to be able to move to the great state of Oregon. The ideals in the U.S., while not perfectly executed, supported the notion that we would have the same opportunities as others, and we feel strongly about paying that forward.”
Boyle had much the same pro-migration, pro-inclusion message for a group of FBI agents he met with last June. His grandfather likely immigrated here illegally from Ireland, Boyle said at the time with a wink.
This time, Boyle’s tone was dead serious.
“Telling any citizen to “go back home” is offensive,” he wrote. “This is home. Diversity is one of the great strengths of our global business, and it is important to be open and welcoming toward individuals with diverse backgrounds, including our colleagues and community members who are already here in the United States, as well as those who are a part of our global team.”
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