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Friday, February 20, 2009

400 Walk for Respect and Dignity in Columbia County

St. Helens, Ore.--On Wednesday, at least 400 members of the Columbia County Latino community and their allies joined together for a community walk, entitled “Procession for Respect and Dignity.”

Organized by Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM), or Latinos United for a Better Future, the procession began at the First Christian Church and winded through St. Helens ending at the Columbia County Courthouse. The group had grown out of the struggle against two Columbia County ballot measures targeting the immigrant community.

The Procession for Respect and Dignity featured speeches by members of the community who shared their experience of the ballot measures. “When these measures first appeared on the ballots, I felt as though I would have to leave the town in which I loved so much,” said Gretchen Ramos, a Columbia County Resident. “How could I raise my children here? My husband is now legal, but I want my children to belong to a community that is united.”

Yesterday’s procession though St. Helens, brought responsible community members, who work hard to support their families and contribute to the local economy, together for a demonstration of solidarity.

"We organized this procession because as Latinos we want to show a positive image of ourselves that we are hardworking, honest people who care deeply about our family and community”, said, Yesenia Sanchez, President of Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM). "Human rights and dignity belong to everybody. It doesn't matter where you come from, the color of your skin, or your documentation status. Everyone deserves to be treated with human dignity.”

The situation that members of the community addressed yesterday is not unique to Columbia County. It reflects an issue of national concern. “This country needs to fix it's broken immigration system. We need just and humane immigration reform. Lacking that we will see poor localized solutions like Arizona and now Columbia County, said Marcy Westerling of the Rural Organizing Project, based in Columbia County. “What we have seen in this community could happen anywhere else in the country if one person decides to go on a crusade.”

At the close of yesterday’s procession members of Latinos Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM) delivered a letter from the community with a basket of white flowers to St. Helen’s City Hall. The basket of flowers is a symbol of peace.

Measure 5-190, which seeks to impose heavy fines on employers of undocumented immigrants, was approved by voters but has been placed on hold temporarily due to challenges to its constitutionality. Measure 5-191 failed at the ballot.

For comment, members of the press can contact Amanda Aguilar Shank at 971 645-5279 and Marcy Westerling at 503 369-3565 or 503 543-3647



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