As part of our WINTER READ and focus on the Minidoka National Historic Site and Japanese American incarceration during World War II, The Community Library welcomes civil rights investigator Jessica Asai. Her lecture will speak to the legacy of Minoru Yasui’s Supreme Court case protesting the war-time incarceration and the implications for citizenship and civil liberties today.
Jessica Asai is yonsei, a fourth generation Japanese American, and was raised in Hood River, Oregon where her family has farmed for four generations. After receiving a B.A. in Politics from Willamette University, Jessica moved to Honolulu and worked in marketing and government relations. Upon returning to Oregon, she graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School and practiced corporate and employment law as an associate at a mid-size firm. In 2010, Jessica transitioned away from practicing law and became a civil rights investigator for the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Department (AAEO) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). At OHSU, she conducts internal civil rights investigations, facilitates the reasonable accommodation interactive process, and provides advice and training to administrators, faculty, staff, and students on civil rights, equity, and Title IX. Jessica is a founding board member of the Oregon Asian Pacific American Bar Association (OAPABA), and contributed to the team effort that successfully nominated attorney and civil rights activist Minoru Yasui for a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. More recently, in December 2018, she was appointed to serve on the Oregon Commission for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (OCAPIA).
Minoru Yasui was an American lawyer and son of Japanese immigrants who fought the restrictions imposed by Executive Order 9066 that allowed the military to set up exclusion zones, curfews, and ultimately the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. The Order was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, and Minoru Yasui’s case was the first to test the constitutionality of the curfews targeted at minority groups.
This program is in collaboration with Friends of Minidoka, a nonprofit that engages in and supports education, research and historic preservation of the WWII incarceration experience. They strive to pass on the history, legacy, and lessons of civil liberties through transforming and inspiring experiences for the general public and those with personal and familial ties to Minidoka, and they work with partners, including the National Park Service, to accomplish these goals.