The Ripple Effect of a Few Calls in Rural Oregon


  Sometimes you never know what a quick phone call or two (or 36) might make happen.

Earlier this year, ROP started hearing more and more reports from folks in rural Oregon about racial profiling and police collaboration with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – ultimately leading to unjust detentions and deportations of immigrant community members. So ROP hosted a "Beyond Know Your Rights" training at the March 2009 Caucus with immigration lawyer Stephen Manning, and a statewide conference call in the summer to learn a little more about what was going on.  And we started cooperating with several ROP member groups in places like Boardman, Lincoln City, and Bend who were experimenting with different strategies to address the problem.

When we found out that immigrant rights allies in the Portland metro area were trying to tackle some of the same issues too, we set a date for a joint urban-rural strategy session in early December.  But we realized that a little more research in advance might be helpful.  So just before Thanksgiving, ROP put out the call for local volunteers willing to make a quick call to their sheriff’s office to ask a few questions about the office’s policies and practices around racial profiling and collaboration with ICE.

This "little research project" took off.  Concerns about police/ICE collaboration resonated with ROP members from all corners of the state, and dozens of folks started getting on the phones to talk to local law enforcement officers in their own communities.

Word about the calls got out quickly.  One sheriff told an ROP volunteer that he was expecting her call; apparently after just a dozen or so similar calls, an e-mail went out to sheriff’s offices across the state "alerting" them to the project.  Different sheriffs have responded in different ways; in one county it appears that the office, anticipating the call, quickly drew up a new written policy prohibiting all forms of bias-based profiling where before they had had nothing. 

This is the power of real people taking simple, coordinated actions at the local level.  With just a few calls to our communities’ sheriffs, we’re creating a ripple effect and letting local law enforcement know that fair and humane treatment of immigrant community members is a priority to rural and small town Oregonians.  This, at the same time that immigration reform is back on the table in DC: 

Just today, Rep. Gutierrez of Illinois introduced in the US House of Representatives the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009.   Available online is a summary of the legislation, which encompasses many of the hopes and demands of immigrant community members and allies.  And please take a minute to send a message to your Congressional reps asking them to support just and humane immigration reform ASAP.

In the next few weeks we’ll be finishing up the local calls and compiling and analyzing the results. (Please contact if you are game for making a call to your community’s police department or sheriff or helping us make sense of the data!) Then we’ll start mapping out plans, community-by-community, to ensure that local law enforcement can do its job of keeping our communities safe — as opposed to using scarce resources to feed more community members into a broken and inhumane immigrant detention system. 

Can you help out in your community?  E-mail to learn more….

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