Safe Communities Coalition of Oregon participated at Turning the Tide

“Changing the criminalization of immigrants for a world of dignity and respect.”  This is the theme of the National Summit “Turning the Tide,” that took place the last May 26-28 in Virginia.

The last week, 9 people traveled from Portland to participate there. They are members Safe Communities Coalition of Oregon.  This Coalition is made up of 20 organizations that have analyzed the prejudices inherent in Secure Communities, which began in 2008.

“The meeting was an opportunity to exchange opinions surrounding the Federal Secure Communities Program,” explained Romeo Sosa, of VOZ (Workers’ Rights Education Project). For example, in Arizona are creating neighborhood defense committees to protect immigrants. One of the proposals of the summit was to replicate this model throughout the United States.

Sosa emphasizes that the name of the program (Secure Communities) does not say much about what it really is.  However, its “efficiency” has achieved more deportations than in previous years.  In 2009 there were 389,834 recorded, while in 2010 there were 392,862; this represents an increase of 3,028 deportations in one year.

“For a year and a half, meetings similar to “Turning the Tide” have been taking place,” said Marco Mejía, member of VOZ.  The idea behind the new Summit was to organize in order to try to “turn the tide”—that is, to find a course of action that allows for the defense of the migrants’ rights.  About 400 people were at the last Summit.

The Safe Communities Coalition, of which VOZ is a part, is already developing plans of action.  Two work groups have been created:  one Education and Outreach Committee, which is in charge of informing the migrant community of its rights; and another Policy Committee, which seeks to build relationships with authorities who can create and apply appropriate policies in Oregon.

As a part of this, the Coalition presented three petitions:

1.  That Oregon not participate in the Federal Secure Communities Program.

2.  That law enforcement officials not ask a detainee about his or her country of origin.

3.  That detainees be informed about their rights through diverse mechanisms.

This work will be shared with the other organizations that will participate in the “Turning the Tide” Summit. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network, together with members of the Inter-Alliance Dialogue (IAD) organized this event.

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