Yes to Education! NO to Deportation! Pro-immigrant Groups of Oregon Reject the New Law of Georgia

We are all Georgia!  I am an undocumented and unafraid!  These were the rallying cries that characterized the demonstration of Saturday, July 2nd outside City Hall in Portland.  Hundreds of persons raised their placards and shouted while passersby asked themselves, “what is going on?”

The National Day of Action in Solidarity with Georgia, where the anti-immigrant law HB 87 was passed, was taking place.  Parallel with this, nine young undocumented immigrants decided to Come out of the Shadows and tell their stories.

Faith communities, labor unions and pro-immigrant activists worked together to organize a large press circle, in English and Spanish.  The local media attended in order to cover the event.

The first to speak at the microphone was Cindy Ávila, of the Safe Communities Project, a coalition that proposes the end of collaboration between local authorities and ICE.  “We have seen how anti-immigrant laws, which claim to protect our communities, only persecute and separate families,” she said in reference to the Federal Secure Communities Program.  Through this program, ICE, or la migra, has access to any person who comes into contact with the police, whether a criminal charge exists or not.

This generates fear in the immigrant communities of the United States and promotes discrimination.  “We are suffering a relentless persecution.  In 2010, more than 392,862 of our brothers and sisters were deported, the majority for misdemeanors,” stated Cándido Alvarado in his speech.  Alvarado is a day laborer and a member of VOZ Workers’ Rights Education Project.  “We ask that the silent raids stop,” he added.

Candido Alvarado

Nevertheless, anti-immigrant laws continue.  HB 87, which was passed in May in the state of Georgia, gives police the power to investigate the immigration record of any person of whom they have a “suspicion.”  Moreover, it imposes fines and punishments on those who employ undocumented workers.

Marco Mejía, of the Pro Immigrant Rights Coalition of Portland, stated that to characterize the phenomenon of migration as a criminal matter alienates the country from the universal principles of justice.  Furthermore, it “denies responsibility for the causes of immigration, such as free trade agreements, war, and the exploitation of natural resources the world over.”

The organizations that participated in Saturday’s demonstration also denounced the economic cost that anti-immigration laws represent for the country.  The law HB 87 of Georgia could affect tourism income.  This hypothesis takes into account that in Arizona, with the law SB 1070, there was a loss of some $140 million due to canceled conventions.

New Sanctuary Movement, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, North West Immigrant Youth Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, Jobs with Justice, MECHA and the Center for Intercultural Organizing Committee of Solidarity and Mutual Support were also present at the action.

See the Oregonian’s coverage of the event here.

Coming Out of the Shadows

Juvenile groups also showed their solidarity with Georgia on Saturday.  Jaime, of the North West Immigrant Youth Alliance (NWIYA), mentioned that seven youths were arrested in Georgia for participating in an act of civil disobedience “in order to defend the human rights in which we all believe.”  Jaime is one of nine undocumented youths that “came out of the shadows” on Saturday.  With the support of relatives and friends, they decided to say in public that they no longer wish to live with fear simply because they do not have papers.  They grew up here and are part of this country.  “Coming Out of the Shadows” was an emotional act that even brought forth tears from among those who were present.  But the support, the bravery, and the desire to move forward infused these young people with joy.  Their shirts carried the slogan of the afternoon, “I am undocumented and I am not afraid.”

After each youth had told his or her story, all of the attendees united in a march to downtown Portland.  “Education not deportation!” and “What do we want?  Justice!  When do we want it?  Now!” were some of the rallying cries of the marchers.  The march concluded last Saturday’s demonstration.

Maria Fernanda Mejia