OR Latinos Meet for Immigrant Action Day
Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR
SALEM, Ore. - It's the closest Oregon's Latino community comes to having a convention. At the annual Immigrant Action Day tomorrow in Salem, delegations from about 20 Oregon cities will meet to discuss their issues and action plans for the year.
The group says its top priorities are restoring driver's licenses and allowing in-state college tuition for all Oregon residents, no matter what their immigration status; and asking that Oregon reject the Secure Communities program, in which local law enforcement officers serve as the eyes and ears of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Francisco Lopez, executive director of Causa, says not all of their priorities will end up as bills in this legislative session - but it's an election year, and their focus will still be on getting lawmakers' attention and cooperation.
"This is the time when we will tell legislators, 'Do you want to come and ask for the Latino vote? We want to make sure that you make a commitment for those issues that are important for us - driver's license, tuition equity, and the relationship between ICE and local law enforcement.'"
Lopez says it will be 2013 before his group revives its push to restore driver's licenses to 80,000 immigrant workers, which the Oregon Legislature revoked in 2008. Until then, he says they'll ask the governor to okay temporary plans to allow them to drive and be insured. To Lopez, it is an issue of safety and economics.
"What they have done is created one more burden to the difficult economic recession - because what it does is, it limits the mobility of the economic activity of the state. People that could take their kids to school, to the doctor, to do grocery shopping."
This weekend's annual event is equal parts pep rally, live entertainment and political strategy session. Christian Baeff, who organized it this year, says people often bring their families, and they leave with new ideas and energy.
"People are excited to see what's going to happen, and always hopeful, but some people find out that this process is not as easy as they thought, too. And sometimes, it takes time for legislation to pass."
Immigrant Action Day takes place on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Chemeketa Community College, 4000 Lancaster Dr. N.E., Building 2, Salem.