What can Rural Oregon do about Immigration Reform?‏

The House of Representatives has now closed down for their month-long August recess after not having come to

Ramon PCUN

a vote on immigration reform, and community leaders are letting Congress know that they’re sick and tired of the stalling.

Last week, our compañeros Ramon Ramirez, President of PCUN Farmworker Union, and Reyna Lopez of Causa Oregon were arrested in Washington DC along with over 50 other high-profile immigrant rights leaders. (Photos are of Ramon, right, and Reyna, below)

Reyna CausaThis is part of a national 40 days of action to keep the pressure on for immigration reform.  In Oregon, these 40 days are the time we need to let Congressman Walden know that we will accept nothing less than a path to citizenship for our undocumented friends, neighbors, and family.  Walden is the 4th ranking House Republican, and key nationally for immigration reform.

Congressman Walden is also holding town halls starting in Bend today for a period of 6 days . . . how 

So what is the deal with immigration reform?  Is it going to happen? Are we going to like it?convenient!  See here for his calendar of stops in Bend, Prineville, John Day, Burns, and Lakeview.  Let’s make sure that at every stop he is hearing that our communities need immigration reform!

The short answer is that probably.  This is the best chance we’ve had for decades, and it will only happen if we keep the pressure on.  A bill has been voted on in the Senate, and now has been delayed in the House.  We have been pushing for a bill to be released before the recess, but . . . back to Ramon and Reyna getting arrested . . . we didn’t get what we wanted. After the House returns, they need to immediately take up immigration reform so it can get a vote (if there is a vote, it is expected to pass).  Then, the Senate & House bills would go to conference to be reconciled before it lands on President Obama’s desk.

As to whether it will be a good bill, that is what we hold in our hands.  Nobody likes everything that is being discussed as part of the immigration bill: the Senate bill designates $46 billion (yes, with a “b”) for more border enforcement, doubling border patrol officers, implementing E-verify, and bringing an unprecedented level military-like security complex to

the border.  There is a 10 year waiting period for immigrants to get a green card, during which time they have to have to stay in the US and meet strong work requirements.  These are pieces that we op

pose, but, especially on border enforcement, we believe we have already lost.  And the 10 year waiting period has a silver lining – it gives us 10 years to engage and develop immigrant community leaders as they go through the residency process.

But, and this is what we are fighting for right now, there is also the possibility for our 11 to 15 million brothers and sisters to stop living in daily fear of being separated from their families and sent to a country they may not know or feel safe in.  (11 million is the number being used nationally and in Washington D.C., b

ut the actual number of undocumented people has been estimated to be much higher).  There is a chance for those 11 to 15 million to get on a path to citizenship in the US.  There is the chance for some of those millions of people who have been torn from their families in the past years by the deportation system to return home.

The Senate bill provides for a broad legalization.  The House discussion is mixed, with some pushing for a comprehensive bill, like the Senate version, and others supporting a piecemeal approach that Oregon’s immigrant community, allies, farmers, and ranchers have come out against.  For those policy buffs, there is more analysis here.  A piecemeal approach could put forward some of the pieces of the bill that we dislike so much, but without the broad path to citizenship that is the centerpiece of what our communities need.

The big picture is that even though we will not be happy with every provision of the bill, right now, we are in the middle of the struggle that asks the question: Will we finally extend a welcome mat to those who have lived, worked, and contributed to our communities for years, or will we stall, or worse, institute another round of the abusive guest-worker program.

A few things that you can do:

1.      Write to Congressman Greg Walden.  Let him know that you want a comprehensive solution with a path to citizenship.  https://walden.house.gov/e-mail-greg

2.      Attend one of the town halls scheduled for this week.  Bring your signs, bring questions, let him hear at every stop that his constituents are pro-immigrant. http://www.centraloregonian.com/PCONews6.shtml

3.      Schedule a screening of the 20-minute March for ONE Oregon documentary in your community, about the bus trip that 50 rural Oregonians took through Walden’s district earlier this year.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSbhIzj4saw&feature=youtu.be

4.      Organize a vigil at your church.  Causa is organizing vigils for immigration reform across the state in the next 40 days.  Can your church join the effort?

5.      Are you a small business owner or do you know one?  Walden needs to hear especially from businesses about immigration reform.  Send Walden a letter, and send a copy to ROP so we can share it with our networks.

6.      Think about how far you’re willing to go for immigration reform.  Are you ready for civil disobedience if that is necessary?  Are you ready to travel to a rally or town hall when the opportunity comes up?  If you’re all riled up and this is your moment to contribute, let us know, and we’ll keep you in the inner circle as we plan in the coming months.