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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Anti-immigrant Measures in Columbia County

There is some very mixed news coming out of Columbia County. Apparently of the two anti-immigrant measures on the ballot in Columbia County Oregon, voters supported one while simultaneously rejecting the other.

Local ballot measure 5-191, which would have forced construction sites to put up enormous anti-immigrant signs was defeated by a resounding 61 to 39 percent margin. However measure 5-190, which requires the county to impose a $10,000 fine on businesses who hire undocumented workers, passed by 57 to 43 percent.

We are pleased that this rural community rejected the bigotry and xenophobia of Measure 5-191. This is a remarkable victory given how effective the right has been nationally in using these anti-immigrant policies to drive a wedge into rural and working class communities.

And at the same time, we are deeply disappointed by the passage of Measure 5-190. We are concerned about the devastation that measure 5-190 will cause the local economy. And the immigrant community has already started to be targeted by scapegoating and racial profiling.

Measure 5-190 is rife with drafting errors, and we have already begun to explore all the options available to Columbia County businesses that will be harmed by this measure.

We want to acknowledge the hundreds of volunteers who spent thousands of hours knocking on doors, making phone calls, and hand-writing postcards. Our efforts are the number one reason that voters rejected measure 5-191. We did everything we could to defeat these measures - see the attached campaign re-cap that proves it!

Regardless of the election results, we are coming out of this fight with stronger, more powerful organizations:

  • Local community groups have now identified thousands of their neighbors and elected leaders as allies that can broaden local, ongoing work for justice
  • Staff and volunteers have increased capacity, experience and skills to run targeted, influential issue campaigns
  • The immigrant community in Oregon is stronger because allies in the GLBT community and labor stood up and played a critical role in the campaign.
  • Community members have a deeper analysis on the solutions needed to fix our immigration system.
  • Here are two comments from local community leaders that give us inspiration as this struggle moves forward.
    "Columbia County can and will do better than this ballot measure. This chapter of the battle ends here tonight but the struggle to bring justice to all workers continues on other fronts." -- Campaign co-chair Craig Frasier

    "Our stand is on the side of social justice and with that we are on the side of history. A measure such as this will not withstand the light of knowledge and ultimately will fail like all other attempts to set one against another." -- Community member Ernie Klostermann

    Measure 5-190 is just one more example of failed piecemeal immigration policies. Measures like this have failed around the country, and they will fail again Columbia County. A true solution to our immigration system must be enacted on the national level. Our opportunity to enact meaningful, workable reform has been renewed with the Obama Administration and we have formed a transition team with our national partners to make this reform a priority in the first 100 days of the new administration.

    Passage of Measure 190 is another reminder that we have a long way to go in winning people's hearts and minds for immigrant justice. We must find a way to address the growing economic insecurity of the entire community, or the impulse to blame and scapegoat groups will continue to grow.

    The tremendous progress made in this campaign wouldn't have happened without the time, energy and resources devoted by a number of organizations: Rural Organizing Project, Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity, CAUSA, Basic Rights Oregon, Western States Center, Oregon Education Association, SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, Association of General Contractors, and Defend Oregon. We express deep appreciation for the time and resources donated to this effort, and invite allies to join our ongoing work for justice.

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