Woodburn, Ore. -- On Monday evening, Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez spoke to an energetic crowd of over 800 people during a town hall at Woodburn High School. Gutierrez was in Oregon as part of his national tour to spotlight the toll that almost 400,000 deportations annually are taking on American children and families. Since March, the Campaign for American Children & Families tour has taken the Congressman to 24 cities around the U.S..
Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois’ 4th District, has been a strong advocate for immigrant families and has worked tirelessly for passage of comprehensive immigration reform, legalization and The DREAM Act. This is the first time in Oregon history that a national leader on immigration reform has visited the state.
During the evening, Gutierrez listened to testimony and stories from Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down by deportation. The testimony evoked much emotion both from the Congressman and from others in attendance.
As the Illinois Representative addressed the crowd, he pointed out that more immigrants are being deported by President Obama than under George W. Bush or any President since Eisenhower. In recent weeks, the Obama Administration has stepped up its attention to immigration reform by calling on Congress to pass legislation. Meanwhile, the Governors of Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have moved to withdraw their states from the Obama Administration's signature deportation program, "Secure Communities," while Alabama and Georgia have joined Arizona in passing sweeping new state anti-immigrant measures.
New guidelines issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week go part of the way in addressing the concerns of immigrant communities, but more concrete and direct action by the President is needed. Specifically, under current law, the President can stop deporting DREAM Act students and the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens and can also adjust immigration policies so that spouses and children of U.S. citizen are not required to spend a decade or more in a foreign country waiting for permission to be reunited. Clarification for states and localities on the process to opt out of the "Secure Communities" program is still needed because the program jeopardizes public safety.
Gutierrez says that he is getting the message that Latino voters are looking ahead to 2012, and they're not happy with what they have seen so far from the White House. They're saying, “We want the President of the United States to keep his word. We're disillusioned, we're disgruntled, and we’re saddened.” But almost in the same breath, they say, “But we're ready to make up! We're ready to reconcile. We really want to be with him. We just hope he can be our champion."
Among those attending the Town Hall with Congressman Gutierrez included elected officials, several Oregon State government officials and leaders from Oregon’s business, faith, labor, healthcare advocacy, legal, education, LGBT, immigrant rights and civil rights community.
The gathering in Woodburn was sponsored by CAUSA Oregon, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Latinos Unidos Siempre, Mano a Mano Family Center, Salem Keizer Coalition for Equality, Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, and Voz Hispana Causa Chavista.
Photos: Slideshow 1 | Slideshow 2