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The vigilante accused of holding migrants at border to appear in court today. Also on our Monday rundown: The US Supreme Court takes up including citizenship questions on the next census this week. Plus, Earth Day finds oceans becoming plastic soup.

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Oregon Lawmakers Get In-Depth Look at Racial Equity

About 20 percent of Oregonians are people of color, and a new report says the state can do more to ensure fairness and equality for all. (fellowdesigns/morguefile)
About 20 percent of Oregonians are people of color, and a new report says the state can do more to ensure fairness and equality for all. (fellowdesigns/morguefile)
January 15, 2016

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon is becoming more diverse, and its residents and policies need to keep up with the changes or risk many facets of life being unequal and unfair for one in five Oregonians.

That's the finding of Facing Race, a report released this week by a coalition of advocacy groups. It outlines priorities for the Legislature to improve civil rights and criminal justice, and boost fairness in the economy, education and health care.

Kristina Narayan, policy associate with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, hopes the overall message of the report extends beyond the halls of the state Capitol.

"It's really a call to get to know the people in your area, just as it is for legislators to know their constituents," said Narayan. "This is a shared experience – that we all live in the state, that we're all Oregonians, and that we should be invested in the success of each other."

The report compliments state lawmakers for drafting and passing legislation to help ensure racial equity. It examines 20 bills that affect communities of color, 17 of which passed, and lists votes by lawmaker on some of those measures. It asks for more specific data and accountability from the state to track problems and progress.

One bill coming up in February would make Oregon the first state to restore the rights of residents who came here through the Compact of Free Association (COFA) from some Pacific islands. David Anitok, co-founder with the COFA Alliance National Network, said they work, pay taxes and join the military – but those who are low-income can't apply for Medicaid.

"This will bring in $9 from the federal [government] to $1 state money to help these folks and provide them this health care that they've been missing since 1996, after the Welfare Reform Act," said Anitok. "And they've been banned completely from Medicaid."

He said there is bipartisan support for the bill in Salem.

The report calls 2015 a "record year" for racial equity. To Anitok, that fits with most Oregonians' hopes for the future.

"For our children to be able to go to school together and learn together, and achieve an American dream together as Americans, would be one thing out of this report that would be nice to see," he said.

According to the Facing Race report, if the state budget is to accurately reflect the priorities of the state, lawmakers must do better to fund state services and correct historic inequities.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR