— Organizational vision of the Bridging Cultures group in Canby, Oregon
There is a disturbing trend in our country right now that is criminalizing migration and dehumanizing immigrants. Politicians argue that Arizona’s new law SB 1070 and the so-called "Secure Communities" program (recently introduced in Clackamas, Multnomah and Marion counties) — both designed to target "criminal aliens" for detention and removal — are supposed to make our communities safer. But ultimately, these laws and programs play on people’s fears and stereotypes about immigrants and make our communities less safe. They dehumanize our neighbors through use of terms like "criminal alien" that seek to create an "us and them" that normalizes discrimination and abuses of mothers and fathers who are simply here trying to make a living and raise their families.
But throughout rural Oregon, people are pushing back! With hometown strategies , we are lifting up and building towards our own notions of what safe and secure communities look like…
Clackamas County is a prime example. Shortly after a newspaper article announced that Clackamas had earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first county in the state to implement Secure Communities, ROP called together a group of community advocates and ROP members for a strategy session on ICE collaboration with local law enforcement. The "Clackamas County Safe Communities" initiative was born, and session participants set out a two-part strategy for dealing with the issue:
1) Advocacy to try to curb local law enforcement’s communication and collaboration with ICE, starting by setting up meetings with local police departments, county commissioners and the Sheriff’s office.
2) Community education to raise awareness about these issues and build support for immigration fairness and justice for the long term.
At that strategy session, ROP met several leaders of a new community group, Bridging Cultures. The group works to "strengthen our community by bridging cultures through mutually transformative relationships." Last week, two group members, Sarah Rodriguez and Charlie Gingerich, accompanied ROP staff at a forum in Marion County with representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and ICE regarding Secure Communities. Sarah pressed ICE to clarify just how programs like Secure Communities make the community safer. In a powerful testimony, Sarah related her own experience working with Latino community members. To paraphrase:
"For several years I have helped coordinate the National Night Out in my neighborhood, which is aimed precisely at crime prevention and building stronger relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they serve. Every year, Latinos have been the first in our neighborhood to sign up to volunteer to help with the event. But now, with the Secure Communities program, people are scared. This year, not a single person from the Latino community signed up to help out. I realize that ICE just "enforces" the laws that Congress enacts, but this is a program that you at ICE designed and developed and presented to Congress and I think you can do something to stop it. It’s certainly not making our community any more safe."
Local agencies and services providers in Clackamas County are engaging as well. The Hispanic Interagency Networking Team invited ROP to present on Secure Communities at their monthly meeting of service providers who work with the Latino community. Troubled by what she heard, one of the HINT members encouraged the Clackamas County Diversity Leadership Council (which plays an advisory function to the County Commissioners) to take up the issue of police-ICE collaboration at their monthly meeting the next week. Concerned about the implications for people of color and immigrants, the coalition committed to setting up a meeting between ROP members and the local Sheriff.
Even the local Democrats have gotten involved. Long-time social justice activist and ROP member, Rex Hagans, brought up the issue at the Canby Dem’s May meeting. And now they are presenting several immigration fairness resolutions to the Executive Committee of the Clackamas County Dems for their consideration. (E-mail email@example.com if you are interested in getting the text of these resolutions to submit to your own party leaders!).
Just last night, ROP member group, Human Dignity Advocates developed their own strategy for keeping Secure Communities out of Crook County. Last weekend the Newport Rapid Response Team determined the next steps in their own efforts to make Lincoln County a more welcoming place for immigrant families by keeping ICE out of their jails. From the valley to the coast to the Gorge, Oregonians are fighting back against false notions of security and taking a pro-active approach towards building the kind of truly safe and welcoming communities that rural Oregon is known for. Communities where…
"…everybody feels secure and free to practice their potential. A community that embraces diversity. A community where everyone feels at home."
Scroll down to learn what you can do to make your community a safer place for all your neighbors.
1. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for help in developing a Hometown Strategy plan for stopping police-ICE collaboration in your community.
And check out the Uncover the Truth toolkit with sample letters, questions, talking points and fact sheets to help community members advocating against Secure Communities and increased ICE-local law enforcement collaboration. The toolkit is available for download for free at: http://uncoverthetruth.org/uncover-the-truth-toolkit
2. Participate in tomorrow’s National Day of Action Against Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070
Saturday, May 29th
11:00 am March & Rally in Salem (Capitol Building) – call 503-984-6816 or 503-984-4823
5:00 pm March & Vigil in Portland (Terry Schrunk Plaza at SW 3rd & Madison) – call 503-233-6787
For more info visit: http://maydaypdx.blogspot.com/
3. Sign up to participate in a Statewide Conference Call on Police-ICE Collaboration and Racial Profiling on June 14th
Monday, June 14th, 3:00 pm
Grassroots organizers from across the state will share updates, ideas and best practices.
Organized by the Rural Organizing Project and the Safe Communities Project
For more info and/or to RSVP contact: email@example.com, 503-543-8417
4. Write a letter to the editor describing what makes you feel safe in your community
Check out the ROP Rural Media Center’s June message for talking points, a sample letter, and tips on how to get your letter published.