Columbia County Latinos lead Procession for Respect and Dignity

Yesenia Sanchez, 503-396-9279,
Martha Olmstead, 503-369-9996,

Columbia County Latinos lead Procession for Respect and Dignity: A Group in the Shadows emerges in support of strong community values

On Wednesday, February 18th, members of the Columbia County Latino community and their allies will join together for a community walk, entitled Procession for Respect and Dignity.

The walk is organized by the new group Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM, or Latinos United for a Better Future), and is a public demonstration of the faces of Columbia County’s Latino Community that has been under attack for the last eighteen months by ballot measures 5-190 and 5-191. The Procession for Respect and Dignity will bring our neighbors and ourselves out of the shadows and show honest, responsible community members that work hard to support families and contribute to the local economy.

At a recent organizing meeting, community members brainstormed reasons that they felt the procession would be an important gesture. “We want to show the community that we are the same, we are human beings. We are respectful and contribute towards our community, and we deserve to be treated with dignity,” said Yesenia Sanchez, LUFM president.

“It is important to be organized and united in these difficult economic times in order to support the entire community,” added LUFM vice-president Martha Olmstead.

Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor was formed in response to the passage of county ballot measure 5-190, yet to be implemented, which if enacted would fine local employers $10,000 for hiring undocumented workers. Since November, Columbia County has attracted wide attention for dramatic job loss as businesses close shop or move to other parts of the state. Lionila Jimenez, LUFM secretary commented, "I have the legal right to work in this country, but the measure has still affected me. My hours have been cut from five days a week to two or three. This measure is affecting the entire community."

Gary Liao, a local business owner and plaintiff in the court challenge to the measure said, "Measure 5-190, in addition to containing errors, omissions, and mixing jurisdictions, would create a climate of suspicion adversely affecting innocent employers and innocent people."

With measure 5-190 and its high-profile court challenge, the previously invisible Latino community has been thrust into the spotlight. In the Procession for Respect and Dignity, the community will speak with a united voice for the first time, and show that we are your neighbors: honest, working people who deserve respect and dignity.

WHEN: Wednesday, February 18, 2009. 4pm – 6pm
WHERE: In St. Helens, Oregon. Starting at the St. Frederic Catholic Church at 175 S 13th, and ending at the County Courthouse.
WHO: New community organization Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM), in collaboration with Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity (CCCHD), and with support from the Rural Organizing Project, and CAUSA: Oregon’s Immigrants Rights Coalition.