Welcome to the team, Martha!

This year’s Caucus will be on Saturday, April 6th in Woodburn, and it’s going to be one for the books. Make sure to register your group by Friday to help ROP organizers get an accurate head count for chairs, meals, childcare, interpretation and housing. Have questions? Email Sidra at sidra@rop.org

We are so excited to introduce the newest member to the ROP staff team: Martha Verduzco-Ortega! 

Martha joined the ROP Board in 2017 and served as Chair until this transition. She is one of the founders and leaders of Hood River Latino Network and was a key leader in the campaigns to support hunger strikers at the NORCOR regional jail in the Gorge. After years of organizing to end NORCOR’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they were successful in 2021! In addition to forming and organizing with these groups, Martha has also organized community cultural celebrations that have brought together hundreds of people, planned rallies in support of Dreamers, and mobilized support for pro-immigrant legislation in Oregon. Martha’s heart, commitment, and extraordinary instincts have made her an incredible Board Chair, and we are thrilled for her to be transitioning onto the staff team.

Martha holds a baby goat up to the camera!

Martha has already been hard at work opening ROP’s newest field office and Immigrant Help Center (IHC) in Hood River on behalf of Hood River Latino Network and ROP. The IHC will act as a community hub and wrap-around service center. Programming will include cultural events, leadership skills development, and assistance in navigating mental and health services. 

The Center, located at 1406 12th St, Suite 2, will open and begin offering services in its new space starting March 18th, 2024. The grand opening will take place in mid-April! To read more about the IHC, read this article in the Columbia Community Connection, which is also included below! 

There is so much more to share about the Immigrant Help Center, and Martha can’t wait to chat with folks about it at the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session on Saturday, April 6 in Woodburn! Register here for the Caucus!

Hood River Latino Network Immigrant Help Center to Open March 18

By Cole Goodwin

Hood River, Ore., February 29, 2024 –Hood River Latino Network and the Rural Organizing Project received the keys for their new Immigrant Help Center (IHC) at 1406 12th St, Suite 2, in Hood River, OR on Feb. 28, 2024 at 3:30 p.m. The IHC will act as a community hub and wrap-around services, cultural events, leadership skills development, and a link for assistance to mental and health services.

Hood River Latino Network has been the labor of several people for more than half of a decade seeking more representation for the Latino community. In the Gorge, where a large portion of the population are immigrants and temporary workers with unique needs, they are the voice in the face of inequalities. 

The Center is expected to open and begin offering services in its new space starting March 18th, 2024. Their grand opening will take place in mid-April.

“Hood River County has one of the highest Latino populations in Oregon (32.1% of Hood River County identifies as Hispanic). And as popular and touristy as Hood River is, it is still a rural area, so we don’t have all the services that the Metro area has. The Immigration Help Center will help bridge the gap in services for Latinos in the Columbia Gorge,” said Martha ‘Tita’ Verduzco-Ortega. 

“The IHC will help empower and advocate for the most vulnerable. We are going to make sure they are set up to be successful,” said Verduzco-Ortega, “All immigrants are welcome.” 

The events and demonstrations would not be the same without the support of people like Ambër Rôsé, Jose Bibian, Arturo Leyva, Samuel Murillo, Monica Romero, Patti Verduzco, and so many more who have been fundamental in the consolidation of this movement.

The IHC will offer a number of services to the community including: 

Community Help, Workers Rights, Renter’s Rights, and Immigration Resources

Community members can walk in or make appointments to learn and navigate issues like tenant rights, employee workers’ compensation, how to register to vote, the citizenship process, and green card support, as well as any other questions and concerns that arise. They will also have an immigration attorney and other law services available for consultation as the office continues to establish itself.

“We will do screenings and help guide people through the process of accessing affordable housing, rent assistance, utility assistance, weatherization, physical, behavioral, and mental health resources, and anything else they need help with,” said Verduzco-Oretega. 

The IHC also hopes to create cultural changes around talking about mental health and other sensitive topics.

“Culturally, there is a tendency for immigrants to not talk about their needs and struggles, we are here to help change that, and let people know it’s okay to ask for help,” said Verduzco-Ortega. 

They also hope to build connections with the Mexican Consulate in the future and bring “El Consulado Movil” more often to the Gorge. “We take a lot of calls from people asking for help in making an appointment with the Mexican Consulate in Portland. We want to make the process a bit easier for our people” said Verduzco-Ortega. 

Training Hub

The IHC will host community classes that help build economic literacy and workforce skills as well as media training for youth. 

“We applied for a grant that would provide our office with six computers to help with training,” said Verduzco-Oretega.

Cultural Resource and Event Hub

The IHC hopes to hold and support local cultural events. The center will serve as a place for farm workers and migrants to meet and provide the infrastructure that is critically needed to organize and be responsive to changing priorities in the community.

Leadership Community and Campaign Incubator

The Center aims to support and bring together the next generation of organizers. 

“We will provide a meeting space to foster multi-generational leadership to come together to strategize and share techniques, to problem solve, and identify community solutions,” said Verduzco-Oretega.

Verduzco emphasized that the project was made possible through the larger community’s hard work and HRLN’s partnership with the Rural Organizing Project. 

“They’ve taken us under their wing until we gain non-profit status,” said Verduzco-Oretega. “Our dream and passion is to help our people and ROP has given all of us at HRLN the opportunity to make those dreams come true.”

Rural Organizing Project is a statewide organization that supports a multi-issue, rural-centered, grassroots base in Oregon. Founded in 1992, ROP works to build and support a shared standard of human dignity: the belief in the equal worth of all communities, the need for equal access to justice, and the right to self-determination.  

“We’re applying for grants and welcome any donations and support people can offer to the help center,” said Verduzco-Oretega.

To donate to HRLN email hoodriverlatino@gmail.com. To connect with HRLN call 541-490-5579 or email hoodriverlatino@gmail.com

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