Rural Oregonians have been responding to attacks on immigrant neighbors and family members by taking action, organizing our communities, and opening challenging and necessary conversations about what our communities need for every person to truly feel safe. In this way, we counter the constant news of anti-immigrant rants from the White House and the passage of new punitive laws targeting those who are not from the “right” country. At ROP we hear every day about brilliant ways rural communities are getting together and organizing for the safety of all of our neighbors.
In August and September, Rural Organizing Project talked to immigrants and non immigrants about how the deportation business hurts our communities and profits from the suffering of people of color. Although constitutional rights apply to every single person on US soil, we continue to see Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents along with rogue police officers tearing families apart. We gathered in living rooms, churches, libraries, movie theaters, and community centers to discuss various ways each one of us can make a difference in this time when both vigilante and state violence are bluntly directed at immigrants and refugees.
During a “Know Your Roles” workshop in Astoria, almost every hand in the room went up as people shared a stream of ideas around relationship-building and mutual support. It ranged from having events to assist undocumented families in filling out their Family Preparedness Packet, to meeting with agricultural employers to share resources about protecting their undocumented workers and building a coalition of employers as allies. We learned that in Astoria, when local police officers pull over someone without a license, they wait with that person until someone can come pick them up; no arrest, no ticket, no tow truck. This is the result of community conversations between local law enforcement and community members. Others in the room were enthusiastic to start building relationships with their local law enforcement, while others proposed to strengthen their local rapid response team or create a new one.
ROP also met members of the Willapa Bay Resistance in Washington who shared their powerful work around immigrant justice and supporting families affected by deportations. ICE detains people in Pacific County almost weekly, arresting individuals as they leave their car to go to work; showing up at people’s houses early in the morning; even tricking people by setting up fake deliveries for business owners through Facebook—then having ICE on the scene to detain them instead. (See story this issue from the Chinook Observer on page 14.)
This article is adapted from a report by the Rural Organizing Project. ROP is an Oregon-based group whose—mainly women—leaders have been on the forefront of challenging right-wing movements in rural areas. Read their “Ground Rules and Tips for Productive Engagement with the Right” in the July issue of Works in Progress.