The fight for immigrant rights

This weekend hundreds, if not thousands, of people are going to come together in Salem for the United for Immigrant Rights March & Rally. Oregonians from across the state will join in this national day of action to declare our commitment to becoming a welcoming and inclusive state, and to working together to respond to undemocratic attacks on our immigrant neighbors. We know that not everyone can travel to Salem, so read on for ways to take action from home, immediately or in the weeks to come!

Over the last few months we’ve seen an increase in vigilante violence targeting immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ folks. President-elect Trump’s promises to deport millions of people in the first hundred days has us anticipating an increase in state violence as well. These attacks, complete with the rhetoric about building a wall, aren’t just attacking our immigrant neighbors — they are attacking inclusive democracy and community self-determination.

Can we really be a democracy if the President-elect is advocating for detaining millions of people in private detention centers that benefit multinational corporations until they are deported out of the country? President-elect Trump is suggesting that public resources, as in our tax dollars, be used to build a wall and tear families apart, all while our communities struggle to have enough money to keep our libraries, schools, and emergency response services functional.
As rural and small town Oregonians, many of us will travel to Salem this Saturday (some through a foot of snow!) to stand together and in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors. Many more of us are organizing in our communities to ensure rural and small town Oregon will keep those who are most likely to be targeted by this administration as safe as possible. Communities like McMinnville are showing up in bold and inspiring ways to publicly mark their resistance to the politics of fear and exclusion!

McMinnville declares itself an inclusive city
Unidos Bridging Communities has been working tirelessly in Yamhill County to advocate for Latinx communities and build bridges of understanding across diverse communities in their county. Over the years they have engaged with local law enforcement, city and county officials, and next door neighbors to build trust and to advance policy that builds a welcoming community for immigrants.

On January 10th, the McMinnville city council passed a resolution to declare “the city of McMinnville as an Inclusive City for all persons regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration or refugee status, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, mental, emotional and physical ability, age or economic status.”

This resolution is made even more powerful by two additional statements:

  • Consistent with the laws of the State of Oregon and the Charter of the City of McMinnville, the use of city funds, personnel or equipment for the enforcement of federal immigration laws is prohibited.
  • The provision of services or benefits by the City shall not be conditioned upon a resident’s race, color, national origin, immigration or refugee status, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, mental, emotional and physical ability, age or economic status.

This resolution builds off of existing law stating that state law enforcement shall not use resources to enforce federal immigration policies. Passing a resolution declaring that city resources will also not be used to enforce federal immigration policies strengthens our resolve across communities to build an immigrant inclusive Oregon. Congratulations to Unidos Bridging Communities and all the human dignity leaders in Yamhill County for leading the way in small town Oregon!

Taking action in small town Oregon
Since the election, ROP has received thousands of calls, emails, and Facebook messages from small town Oregon and rural folks from across the country seeking resources to organize. New groups are forming, former immigrant rights and other human dignity groups are reactivating, and hundreds of people are contacting us to volunteer. This is the start of something big. The opportunity to bring new people into action for human dignity and democracy is ripe. The hunger to connect with others who are scared or infuriated by the direction our country and communities are going runs deep. Now is the moment to connect with one another, break isolation, and build relationships that move into action. Over the next weeks and months, ROP will continue to share success stories that can serve as models and to create and share tools and resources for organizing in this moment. And we need to hear from you about what is coming up in your community, what is helpful and what is most needed.

Below we share strategies for action that are popping up across the state. Use this ROPnet to start a conversation with your human dignity group or your friends and allies. What could work in your town? What would you need to move forward with any of these strategies? Share back your reflections with ROP and we will continue to develop resources for groups ready to engage.

Map your community: The only way we are going to overcome divisiveness and exclusion is by building community. It has never been clearer that our calling is to build resilient relationships with our neighbors, community leaders, and beyond. Sheriffs, police chiefs, city councilors, and county commissioners all make decisions and play pivotal roles in creating inclusive communities where everyone can live their lives fully with safety and dignity. Set up meetings or coffee dates to find out if they are concerned about the safety and well-being of everyone in your town. Ask them:

  • How will you work to keep everyone in our community safe, including our neighbors who are immigrants, Latinx, Muslim, LGBTQ, or perceived to be immigrants, Muslims, or LGBTQ?
  • If you hear of hate crimes or vigilante violence experienced by the most vulnerable people in our community, how will you respond?
  • The State of Oregon already has an law prohibiting the use of public funds to enforce federal immigration laws. Will you uphold this policy as an elected official in our community?
  • Are you willing to support local policies that would reinforce this state policy?

Women’s crisis centers, librarians, emergency responders and volunteer firefighters, social workers, faith leaders, and teachers are often on the frontlines when there are budget cuts or community crises. Ask them:

What concerns do you have about your work under a Trump administration? What are concerns you are hearing from your coworkers and community members?
What are unmet needs that you currently see in your community? Who is most impacted?
How is your work funded? How will your work be impacted if there are budget cuts?
What support do you need from your community and local electeds in order to continue the work that you are doing?

Rapid response: We live in unpredictable times — we are experiencing unexpected extreme weather, our services and community infrastructure is already struggling and will continue to erode away without intervention, and vigilante violence is on the rise. It is time for us to build up how we can rapidly communicate and respond together to crisis moments.

Back when it was the norm for federal immigration officials to raid workplaces to detain and deport immigrant workers, when community members were at risk of leaving for work and never coming home, ROP and human dignity groups set up rapid response networks. Rapid response has been used in many different ways, including to respond to hate crimes, threats and intimidation by the militia or “Patriot” movement, natural disasters, and beyond.

Rapid response systems can be as simple as setting up a phone tree or a text loop. For any communication system to be successful, it requires commitment from participants to play a role. Some questions to ask include:

  • Who can make calls to activate a phone tree?
  • Who has the flexibility to drop everything and drive to where a situation is occurring?
  • Who would be good at supporting someone who has been attacked or targeted?
  • What other roles do you see valuable for rapid response infrastructure in your community?
  • Assessing our resources is another step:

Who has a good car that they are willing to loan out or use in case of an emergency?
Who has medical training?
Who has a relationship with city councilors, the mayor, county commissioners, or members of law enforcement?
What other resources would aid a rapid response infrastructure?

Many groups have already started to set up rapid response or emergency response systems, especially in counties where emergency responders are underfunded. What need do you see in your community for this kind of infrastructure? What first step can you take to get started?

Inclusive city or county: McMinnville serves as a strong example of an inclusive resolution for our cities and counties. It not only names communities that are likely to be targeted and welcomes them, but it puts resources behind that statement. ROP can work with your group to assess if this is a good strategy for your community and come up with an organizing plan. There are many communities where a resolution might be a good idea, and some communities where we might not have the allies in office to pass a resolution. Take the time to talk it through and assess.

Faith communities and sanctuary: An additional strategy coming up in rural communities hearkens back to a centuries-old practice of faith communities serving as sites of “sanctuary”, dating back to the medieval England, and later the Underground Railroad. When Central American refugees were going to be deported back to countries where they would face violence and persecution in the 1980s, churches housed them, knowing that immigration agents would not enter faith institutions to round people up. Over the last several years, during the Obama administration when the highest number of immigrants were deported under any one President, churches participating in sanctuary housed people to prevent their deportation and also to amplify their personal stories as a way to change hearts and minds.

In this tradition, many faith leaders and institutions are asking what sanctuary could look like under the Trump administration’s immigration and deportation policies. Some questions to begin with include:

  • Who are your allies in the faith community?
  • How has your community participated in sanctuary in the past? What would be different now?
  • What relationships do you need to have to build trust and communicate well with vulnerable communities and with institutions who could provide sanctuary?

At your next group meeting, or gathering of friends, bring a copy of this ROPnet. Discuss which of these strategies resonate with your group. How can ROP support your group in moving these or other strategies forward?

We are inspired daily by the stories that we are hearing from rural Oregonians. People are responding to division by reaching out for each other, gathering at potlucks and showing up in increasing numbers at community events that speak for the human dignity, rights, and safety of all of our neighbors. These gatherings speak volumes to the instinct that we have to come together during this time. Let’s keep reaching out to one another — and move towards action!

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