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On Immigrant Action Day, A Call for ‘No More Raids’

February 27, 2009

Salem, OR – Saturday is Immigrant Action Day in Oregon, and there will be a somber tone to this year's event. This week in Bellingham, Washington, 28 people were arrested in a federal immigration raid. The handcuffs and ankle chains, and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in riot gear, are representative of what immigrants' rights groups say is overkill for workers who are neither criminals nor terrorists.

Francisco Lopez, director of the Oregon group CAUSA, says the raid underscores the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

"All the political rhetoric, all the anger, all the hate, will not resolve the problem. The problem is that we have a labor force in this country that is contributing to the economy, that needs to be legalized. That's the solution."

In Salem, immigrants come together to learn their rights and responsibilities in the U.S., and what they can do to improve chances for immigration reform. The recent Oregon law prohibiting undocumented workers from getting drivers' licenses has been a hardship for some; the continued raids of employers also has heightened fears.

About 120,000 immigrants are part of the fabric of every Oregon community, adds Lopez, and they're not 'stealing jobs' from anyone.

"This is not the time to look for the scapegoat of this economic crisis among the poorest of the poor in our state. We know who is responsible for this crisis – and they have private jets and they work on Wall Street."

ICE says its goal is to round up dangerous fugitives – but 5,300 of the 7,300 people detained in the Northwest last year had no criminal background, according to a study by Yale Law School’s Migration Policy Institute.

Lopez says Immigrant Action Day is a chance for people to learn their rights and responsibilities, and also to discuss problems unique to Oregon, including the driver's license restrictions. The event takes place at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, on Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Migration Policy Institute study can be viewed online at www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/NFOP_Feb09.pdf.


Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR