ROP and Immigrants Rights in 2009

In 2009, tensions around immigration have heightened in communities across rural Oregon and the country. In the historic November elections of 2008 where “hope triumphed” across the state and country, voters in ROP’s neighborhood passed a ballot measure that would have created an “illegal worker free zone” by punishing employers for hiring undocumented workers. ROP member Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity launched a full scale campaign to defeat these initiatives.  One measure passed with a resounding 57% of the public vote – a sad reminder of how far rural Oregon still has to go. Eventually, both measures were defeated – one at the ballot and the second by a court challenge.
Meanwhile, Latino community members understood this as a measure to “kick out all the immigrants,” and two of the county’s largest employers closed shop (one moved to nearby Woodburn, along with a part of the local immigrant community). Columbia County was featured in a TIME magazine article as an example of a national phenomenon: in the absence of federal immigration reform, communities under serious economic pressure can turn to scapegoating their immigrant neighbors, with damaging results.
As in years past, Immigrants rights is a priority for ROP in 2009, and here’s what we’re doing about it:
Priority #1: Just and Humane Immigration Reform – NOW!!
Without federal reform, we will see the same damaging and piecemeal attempts to address the pressures that communities face. Our immigrant neighbors, who contribute immensely to our communities and state, will face increasing insecurity and suffering due to broken federal immigration policies. As founding members of CAUSA: Oregon’s Immigrants Rights Coalition, ROP is committed to educating and mobilizing Human Dignity Groups in support of an immigration reform that includes:
  • A path towards citizenship for immigrants currently in the country,
  • Protections of labor rights for immigrant workers,
  • An immigration policy for future immigrants that favors family reunification, the protection of political refugees, and that respects those forced to leave their countries as “economic refugees,”
  • A de-linking of temporary work visas from employers,
  • An end to raids and deportations of productive and contributing community members, and
  • A border strategy focused on security of both immigrants and border communities, not border militarization.
Priority #2: “Beyond Know Your Rights” – Defending and Expanding Immigrants Rights in Oregon
Know Your Rights trainings have long been a tool to educate immigrants and people of color about what their rights are with the police and with federal immigration agents. But just knowing your rights does not mean that they’ll be respected. ROP has teamed up with leaders from communities across Oregon to respond to hurtful and destructive statewide law enforcement tactics, like racial profiling and unjust detentions, with a united voice. From community accountability meetings, to meetings with county sheriffs, to documentation and community surveys, ROP is supporting rural Oregonians to tackle abuses head on, even as we work for the more systemic change we all hope will come through a just and inclusive overhaul of our nation’s immigration system. See here [link] for more information about ROP’s Beyond Know Your Rights work.
Priority #3: Supporting Latino-led Organizing in Rural Oregon
ROP has traditionally worked with a predominantly white, rural base of Oregonians. Now, with hopes for immigration reform, combined with real crises of detentions, deportations, and unjust treatment of immigrants in rural communities, we have found Latino leadership emerging in many of the same communities where we support longstanding Human Dignity Groups. The struggle to defeat anti-immigrant ballot measure 5-190 in Columbia County led to the formation of Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor [link] and some great community organizing!! We are also working this year to support the relationships we see forming between white allies and Latino leaders in rural Oregon. And now, ROP is lucky to have two bilingual staff that can support emerging Latino leadership even more.
Get involved!
One of the tools that we use to move these programs forward is the Immigrant Fairness Network. The IFN is a network of community activists and leaders around the state who are on the front lines of defending immigrants rights. Contact to join the network, and you’ll be added to our IFN listserve, and to the list of folks we contact when immigrants in your community need an ally.