The Right’s next move in Oregon

This week, we received the news that Representative Kim Thatcher (R – Keizer) has introduced a package of bills that embody the most recent kind of attack on Oregon’s immigrant community.

It’s hard to believe what we’re confronting these days. That business-as-usual in politics is deportations of mothers, youth, and working people, attempts to deprive newborn children of a nationality, and now to require local officials – who are meant to serve and protect our communities – to root out community members who lack immigration papers.

Isn’t rural unemployment still up to 18% in some counties? Aren’t our schools and libraries closing for lack of funds? Creating a campaign based on hate and fear will only divide us, cost our state, and make us less able to pull ourselves out of this economic slump. They will also just cause more injustice & pain in our immigrant communities.

Among other things, here is what the bills do:

  • Require local public officials to do the work of federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • Require county to verify immigration status of person incarcerated in county correctional facility.
  • Penalize employers who do not use the flawed federal E-Verify system to check the status of their employees
  • Prohibit the state from providing basic services to undocumented people

Is this who we are as a nation? Is this who we want to be as Americans? Bills like these further the politics of division that pit neighbor against neighbor. They encourage questioning the right of our neighbors to live their day-to-day lives and to be a part of civil society and they distract us from the very real problems that rural communities face.

Where do we go from here?

Well, we have to remember that ROP and Oregon are not strangers to these kinds of anti-immigrant measures. The right has been trying to push them for years.

Back in the early 1990s when ROP got started with dozens of local human dignity groups defending the LGBTQ community against right-wing attacks, the farmworker and immigrant movement supported us. An injury to one weakens us all. ROP groups have worked hard to build a culture of solidarity across races. We have worked alongside our friends at CAUSA and PCUN to respond when anti-immigrant legislation is proposed. We have held living room conversations in dozens and dozens of rural communities to break down myths about immigrants. We have fought against deportations, for drivers’ licenses and immigration reform.

In Columbia County, we fought two bills that targeted working immigrants and their employers. Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity rallied, the Latino community formed a new group to defend against what felt like a law to kick all non-whites out of the community. Ally groups offered support from every corner of the state. Eventually, we won.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.

This year, we’ll draw on our rich history, and mobilize again in support of our neighbors.

1. We’ll go where the fight is. Right now that means showing our legislators that we will not stand for Arizona-style legislation in our state, and that we demand basic civil rights for our immigrant neighbors.

2. We’ll keep organizing for the long haul. We will take on projects where we build relationships across races and cultures, and keep our basic values of human dignity front and center. The best human dignity projects have a long-term vision, and short-term wins that keep us visible and make a difference to our communities.

During this moment of right wing upsurge, of violent messaging, and of fear mongering is when our work as human dignity advocates takes on great significance. I am so proud to be in the struggle with you all. ROP will keep you tuned in on how these, and other bills that attack the basic tenets of democracy and human dignity, are moving this legislative session and share organizing opportunities to respond. In the meantime, please share this message around to inform those in your community about the potential threat of these bills and the impact they can have on all of us.

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