From urban cities to rural communities to suburban sprawl, Americans now find themselves at the crossroads of a contentious, often appalling, national debate centered on forced economic migration. Underneath this raging battle that divides communities, neighbors, friends and families a simple fact remains—forced economic migration, more popularly known as “undocumented immigration”, has become its own vocabulary, a way to talk about race, in a society in which race has often been a conversation coded in meaningless terms such as “reverse discrimination,” “dual loyalists,” “illegal alien” and “playing the race card.”
In the midst of this debate, opportunistic white nationalist organizations operating under the guise of “immigration reform” have fueled some of the worst aspects of this conversation. They’ve done this by attacking local communities in an attempt to deny the basic dignity of community members regardless of their immigration status.
While many of us are aware of the political battles over immigration that are taking place at the state and federal levels, the majority of skirmishes are happening at the local level. Anti-Immigrant organizations have specifically taken the battle to the grassroots in an attempt to stay below the radar of national immigrant, civil rights, labor and religious organizations that have been successful at defeating many of their most punitive measures.
In New Haven, Connecticut the Mayor finds himself under attack for ensuring that every person in his city has the rights and responsibilities that come from being part of a community. In Phoenix, Arizona local immigrant labor leaders find their community continually terrorized by a local sheriff who considers being compared to the Ku Klux Klan a “badge of honor.” The goal of anti-immigrant forces is to wear down the resolve of local immigrant rights leaders and to overwhelm their ability to impact state and national public policy.
On November 4th at the same time that Oregonians were casting votes that would defeat a statewide anti-immigrant attack on bilingual education, anti-immigrant activists passed a local measure that now places Columbia County, Oregon on the front-lines of the struggle against anti-immigrant organizing. Measure 5-190 has set off a human rights crisis unseen in Columbia County’s recent history. With employers now facing a $10,000 dollar fine or closure for not taking on the role of federal immigration enforcement officers, employees are being dismissed en mass throughout the county for simply being Latino. Many families in Columbia County, like the majority of Americans, live paycheck to paycheck and are now left without the income to pay for their families housing and food. In a county that is already cash strapped, the new measure will shrink Columbia’s ability to provide much needed services and possibly send the county into bankruptcy by forcing it to assume the role of the federal government.
Organizations like the Rural Organizing Project are already on the ground responding and they need our help. Make a contribution of $25.00 right now by going to the donation button at www.rop.org/index.htm to send a message to the anti-immigrant movement that no matter where they attack we will not allow any community or individual to be isolated by them—that we stand united, indivisible. It’s time for each of us to stand together.
Fifty years from now the fight against anti-immigrant bigotry and its public policy impact will not be looked upon as immigrant history or non-immigrant history, rather it will be seen as what it is—American history. Having swept courageous Americans of every race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality and indeed sexual orientation it will be seen as what it is: America’s first fully integrated human rights movement. It’s now sweeping through Columbia County Oregon.
Let’s make sure we’re a part of it.