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Trump’s immigration rhetoric is personal, Columbia president says

In an open letter, Tim Boyle called Trump's "go back home" comment offensive, unacceptable, and taunting. He also shared how it impacts Columbia.

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Columbia Sportswear President and CEO Tim Boyle has publicly said it numerous times and even confessed to FBI agents in person, but he’s saying it again: the multi-billion dollar sportswear company wouldn’t be around today without immigrants, including his mother who fled Nazi Germany in the ’30s.

Boyle has spoken openly about how he strongly disagrees with President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and use of offensive and racist language, such as the president’s recent comments about four Congresswomen who happen to be Democrats and women of color.

This time, Boyle was prompted to speak up after a government decision that impacted his own company.

Columbia President and CEO Tim Boyle’s open letter on immigration

Dear Colleagues,

In recent months, we’ve been trying to assist one of our longtime international customers with a visa to visit our headquarters, view our products, and work with our internal teams to grow our business and continue to create sales overseas and economic opportunity here in Oregon.

Just last week, the U.S. government refused to grant a visa, because of a 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). 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.

I was thinking about this frustrating and unjustified decision, one that negatively affects all of us at Columbia who are striving to grow a successful business with strong global partners, when 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.). 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. I wanted to take a moment to tell you why it is unacceptable at Columbia.

I’ve said it before, but it unfortunately bears repeating that Columbia exists in Oregon because Gert was able to escape 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. 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.

Telling any citizen to “go back home” is offensive. 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.


Tim Boyle