Immigrant Injustice Comes to Rural Counties

With county officials and conservative activists in Oregon counties like Clackamas, Marion and Polk stepping in to "take the reins" in the face of the federal government’s inaction, the need for a fundamental overhaul of our nation’s economic and immigration systems couldn’t be more clear.  This weekend, hundreds of thousands of workers, immigrants and their allies will march together to demand "Jobs for All" and to remind legislators that "Immigrant Rights are Workers Rights".

The climate of division and fear points to the need for something even deeper and more transformative than these absolutely critical changes to national policy.   We need hometown strategies and neighbor-to-neighbor approaches to creating a new culture of equity, solidarity and democratic participation. 

 

In times of economic hardship, scapegoating and divisions between communities intensify.  Whether it’s blaming the poor for their own and everyone else’s downfall, or pitting black against white, or Muslim against Christian, we must defend against these attempts to divide us.  We must hold to a higher ground that recognizes us all as interconnected and interdependent members of a global human family.

Unfortunately, one division in particular is gaining traction right now both nationally and here in rural Oregon: that between immigrants and the US-born.  

In Polk and Marion Counties, conservative tea party activists have paired up with the anti-immigrant Oregonians for Immigration Reform to collect signatures to get a measure on the November ballot that would require employers to check employee’s work authorization using the notoriously flawed E-Verify database.  A new county "tip line" would be established, and a county enforcement officer would have to investigate tips and issue fines to employers found not using the database.  Far from protecting workers’ rights, these measures would divert precious county resources away from needed services and infrastructure and fan the flame of immigrant scapegoating — all without doing anything to address the root causes of the economic crisis.   

[Do you know what’s being circulated in your county?  We are looking for one person per county to call their local county election office and find out if there are any similar petitions filed in your county.  E-mail cara@rop.org if you can make this call in your county or want to get involved in local efforts to keep these measures off the ballot in Polk and Marion counties.]

In a troubling development that foreshadows a move in Oregon towards the even scarier situation facing Arizona, Clackamas County recently became the first county in the state to implement the Secure Communities program.  Under this program, local law enforcement officials check the fingerprints of an individual they are booking into a jail against immigration databases, rather than just against FBI criminal databases.   Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is automatically notified if the fingerprints match fingerprints in the Department of Homeland Security system, even if the person has not been convicted of any criminal act. 

Secure Communities leaves the door open for racial profiling and police abuse, and runs counter to our state’s history and policies of welcoming immigrants.  Reports from local leaders indicate that introduction of the program has caused panic among immigrant community members, is escalating already eroded public trust, and is undermining community policing efforts.  [E-mail cara@rop.org to learn more about Secure Communities and how to keep it from being implemented in your county.]

With individual counties and states stepping in to "take the reins" in the face of the federal government’s inaction, the need for a fundamental overhaul of our nation’s economic and immigration systems couldn’t be more clear.  This weekend, hundreds of thousands of workers, immigrants and their allies will march together to demand "Jobs for All" and to remind legislators that "Immigrant Rights are Workers Rights".  (Scroll down for info on May Day actions happening across the state — and let us know if you’re planning something in your community!)

The climate of division and fear points to the need for something even deeper and more transformative than these absolutely critical changes to national policy.   We need hometown strategies and neighbor-to-neighbor approaches to creating a new culture of equity, solidarity and democratic participation. 

In Lincoln County this past weekend, ROP staff accompanied ROP member groups Centro de Ayuda and Coastal Progressives in a participatory workshop on cross-cultural organizing.   Newer immigrant community members and long-time progressive leaders practiced overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers to achieve shared goals of a stronger, more prosperous and welcoming community.  

This is where it’s at.  Heart by heart, small town by small town — together we are building the relationships, the consciousness, and the solidarity it will take to keep our communities united and strong for the long haul.

Best,
Sarah

PS.  Interested in changing the culture and discourse around immigration in your community?  Contact cara@rop.org to learn more about ROP’s Rural Media Center campaign to create Welcoming Communities – a concerted and coordinated effort to flood local rural media outlets with neighborly messages of welcome towards our immigrant neighbors.


Upcoming Worker and Immigrant Rights Actions

Saturday, May 1st at 11:00 a.m.   Salem May Day March, Rally, and Cultural event in Salem to support the DREAM Act, Immigration Reform and to pay tribute to Latin America workers in our community! Begins at Willamette University and ends at the State Fair Grounds. From 12:00-8pm at the Fair Grounds, join a broad coalition of immigrant rights activists for live music, delicious food and performances. Contact Amy at amy@rop.org to join the ROP delegation!

Saturday, May 1st at 11:00 am.   Portland May Day March and Rally. 

    11am: Gather at SW Park Blocks (Park and Salmon) for sign-making, art, and entertainment
    12pm: Rally with music and speakers
    1pm: March through downtown Portland
 
For more information, visit:
http://maydaypdx.blogspot.com/

Saturday, May 18 at 6:00 p.m.   Leaders’ Assembly & Accountability Session with Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and County Law enforcement agencies at First Congregational Church at 700 Marion Street NE, Salem. Contact Sarah at cara@rop.org for details.

 
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