Invading our Communities with our Values

On Monday night in Monmouth, Oregon, a church basement slowly filled up with a few dozen human dignity seekers.  These people are from many different backgrounds.  Some arrived from foreign countries, some were born in the US – identities cross and weave with politics, race, geography.

They make you wonder, is a tejana, born with brown skin in Texas, less American than a white man from San Diego?  What about immigrants who go on to graduate from US high schools, or the newer immigrants they serve once they go to work – how long does it take to become American? Who gets to be an American?

The people in these photos gathered Monday to watch a film about immigrant integration and community called Welcome to Shelbyville.  The excitement of this event wasn’t the simple gathering, but that it signaled the launch of a bold campaign to make Polk County a welcoming community towards newcomers.

Polk Café Commons is slowly and thoughtfully bringing diverse sectors of the community together to find common ground and affirm their shared values.  They are collecting hundreds of signatures on this petition, which states simply and clearly that we need not leave anybody behind in our search for peace, security, and prosperity.

I will help create dialog within my community.

I will help create solutions that bring our diverse communities to a place of better acceptance.

I will help all residents of our community have a safe and healthy place to live and work.

I will help our community have food and products that are safe and sustainable.

I will recognize the value of all of our residents and their contribution to our economic strength.

This simple campaign is powerful against a backdrop of these times.  The DREAM Act narrowly passed a vote in the US House of Representatives yesterday, with our own Oregon representatives split on the issue.  As it currently stands, the DREAM Act gives undocumented youth a narrow path to walk to become citizens, involving strict guidelines, steep fines, and over a decade of waiting.  Is that not enough to ask them to prove that they are good enough to be American?  How long will these youth, some representing the best and brightest of our future, pay for our broken immigration system?

Today, we fight for political victory, we call our Congresspeople, make our voices heard pushing for the DREAM Act to pass as well in the Senate.  And that is critically important.  But in our spare time we are slowly building an alternative, we’re invading our communities with our values, and creating the world we want to live in.

PS. Call 202-224-3121 to connect with the Congressional switchboard, and make your voice on the DREAM Act heard!  Ask for Senator Jeff Merkley or Senator Ron Wyden and tell them that we want the community service put back into the DREAM Act as a path to citizenship for our youth!  Remind them to vote YES when the bill comes up.