What I learned at General Synod 29 – July 2013

by John Hickox, Dufur, Oregon
I thought “bullying” was about high-school cheerleaders making fun of the girl with a bad complexion or 8th grade boys pushing around 4th grade math whizzes.

That is, of course, one dimension of bullying, but there is much more!

I didn’t REALLY understand the issue until a woman who, shall we say, doesn’t quite fit our image of a person in a leadership position in the church, stood up and said, “I was bullied in kindergarten, I was bullied in grade school, I was bullied in high school, I was bullied in college, I was bullied in seminary, I WAS BULLIED 5 MINUTES AGO WHEN I APPROACHED THIS MICROPHONE TO SPEAK!”

Rural Organizing Project – Welcoming Community

Rural Oregon has been experiencing rapid changes. As of the 2010 Census, Latinos make up 12% of Oregon’s population and nearly 20% of Oregon’s youth. From 2000 to 2008 the local Latino population grew over 50% in nine rural Oregon counties and five now have populations of more than 20%. These changes in a time of such economic insecurity and vulnerability can cause insecurities, tensions and discomfort, making our small town communities vulnerable to fear-mongering and scapegoating.

Human dignity groups are well-situated to serve as leaders and guides as our communities experience these shifts. HDGs are already stepping up and initiating the conversation about how to represent our rural values by building a welcoming community. We are in a position to offer leadership and vision toward a grassroots culture change for inclusivity, dignity and the possibility of prosperity through embracing our changing communities.

Welcoming Campaigns have been building strategic cross-cultural alliances to promote a “welcoming” and inclusive environment for immigrants and our towns as a whole. We can demonstrate how local leadership embraces Oregon’s changing demographics. While Welcoming efforts are oriented towards long-term culture shift in our communities, they also remain vigilant to more immediate projects that can lessen the daily pressures of racism that leads to exclusion, invisibility and lack of opportunity that are systematically impacting the most vulnerable in our communities.  Take Action.

Causa

Causa was founded in the fall of 1995 by farmworkers, immigrants and allies in order to defeat anti-immigrant ballot measures prepared for circulation to Oregon voters. Since 1995, Causa has defeated dozens of anti-immigrant bills, including attempts to pass E-verify, restrict bilingual education, reduce needed services for low-income immigrant families, and Arizona-style legislation. From 2009-2011 Causa expanded our work to advocate for statewide policies that positively affect Latino immigrant communities in Oregon such as health equity, affordable housing, and jobs and the economy. (Source: Causa website)

400 people attended Causa’s 14th Annual Statewide Immigrant Action Day in Salem on Saturday, January 21 to highlight:

Restoring driver’s licenses for all in Oregon

Stopping local law enforcement collaboration with ICE

How to get involved with our children’s education

Making your voice heard in elections

Equality for all members of our community

On January 24, Causa and a coalition of Eugene churches (including First Congregational UCC) and community groups hosted 350 guests a second annual Leaders Assembly. The issues addressed, to the attention of special guests from city, county, and state government, were a driver’s license restoration for all qualified Oregon residents and restoration of county funding for Centro LatinoAmericano in Eugene.

In 2005, the federal government passed the Real I.D. Act. In 2007, Governor Kulongoski followed by passing an order to get the Oregon driver’s license to meet the federal standard. This requires people to provide a birth certificate and documentation of legal status to renew or obtain a driver’s license. By the end of 2012, most of the immigrant community will be without a legal driver’s license. This is a losing situation for all—drivers, insurance companies, state licensing revenue, farmers and related industry, and certainly undocumented people who must work, go to the grocery or doctor, and take their children to school.

Gov. Kitzhaber has taken up this issue and will pursue passage of the Safer Roads Act to restore a driver’s-license-only for eligible drivers.

Centro LatinoAmericano, the largest and most established community-based organization in Lane County (and the southern Willamette Valley) serving the needs of low-income individuals and families, suffered drastic funding cuts from Lane County in June of 2011. This leaves poor citizens with fewer resources (e.g., heat assistance, language barrier assistance) to help them become self-reliant.

Currently, anti-immigrant groups with the support of Oregon State Representative Kim Thatcher (R), Oregon State Representative Jeff Barker (D) and others are preparing to introduce House Bill 4052 to force state agencies in Oregon to use the flawed E-verify system to “verify employment eligibility of applicants.” E-Verify, an Internet-based computer database run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has a troubled history that would spell disaster for Oregonians and Oregon’s struggling budget. Readers can take action on this and other Causa issues by checking the website: http://causaoregon.org


Brenda Kame’enui
First Congregational Church
Eugene, Oregon

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