SALEM, Ore. — A large gathering of people of faith, labor activists and workers and local civil rights activists gathered last week at St. Vincent De Paul Church here to commit to building a regional immigrant rights movement. The ecumenical church service and press conference held afterwards drew media coverage. The service and press conference took place as Oregon’s Democratic Governor moved towards making Oregon a “legal presence” state, taking away driving privileges from undocumented immigrant workers. Tens of thousands of people working in Oregon will not be able to drive after the state’s Driver and Motor Vehicle (DMV) department drafts rules requiring people to produce a valid Social Security Number at DMV offices in order to get a driver’s license. These rules may be drafted as early as February.
The church service commemorated the brutal murders of human rights activists in El Salvador and linked the murders of these activists to immigrant rights in the United States today. The gathering formed in response to recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the region and the need to press for immigrant rights. The reinvigorated local movement is based on the demand for “fairness and respect for all people,” said one minister. The gathering came after two large meetings with immigrant workers. This is “not just about saying things, but doing things” as people of faith, said another minister at the press conference.
The local movement committed today to educating the public about immigration, urging solidarity actions, offering English as a Second Language and citizenship classes, training legal observers in preparation for future ICE raids, assisting immigrant worker families, raising funds for legal and immigrant family aid, creating an immigrant family center, creating places for sanctuary for immigrants, building a presence in local media, pushing for positive political change and building solidarity against racism.
Those present at the church service and press conference represented a major section of the Salem’s religious communities. Present were a number of members and leaders of PCUN, the state’s farm worker union, and union stewards from SEIU Local 503. Labor and religious activists announced that they will launch a regional protest campaign around the governor’s Executive Order, calling on him to reverse the damage done by the order and to repudiate racism.