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OR Immigrants Walk for Respect and Dignity

February 19, 2009

St. Helens, OR - A special group of St. Helens residents took an unusual walk through town Wednesday night. Many were immigrants, who generally do not wish to call attention to themselves. Joined by their supporters, the group of about 300 held the procession to prove immigrants living in the area are responsible members of the community, and are not hiding from anything. The group wants to mend the rift in Columbia County since the passage last fall of Measure 5-190, which would have fined employers who hire undocumented workers.

Marcy Westerling, director of the Rural Organizing Project, says the debate has left many hard feelings to be repaired.

"Our job is to talk to the hearts and minds of every single person living in this county, about what makes a community thrive, and why there’s some real strengths that we need in 2009 in our diversity."

What happened to divide the people of Columbia County could happen anywhere in Oregon, adds Westerling.

"Columbia County has shown what can happen in every other community in the state if one person decides to go on a crusade. Hopefully, we’ll all decide we don’t want this level of derailing of the true problems in our community."

Westerling, who has lived in Columbia County for 20 years, says the economic downturn has hit the area particularly hard, and thinks local residents would do better to work together to make improvements. Meanwhile, a judge has put Measure 5-190 on hold, at least temporarily. The coalition argued the measure violates the state constitution and is preempted by other laws.

The walk through town was organized by Lations Unidos para un Futuro Mejor (LUFM)<.em>, Latinos United for a Better Future.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR