By Brenda Kame’enui.
Published on January 24, 2011
First Congregational UCC in Eugene has long been interested in immigration issues, as well as establishing relationships with Latino communities in both Eugene and abroad. Over the last several years, the people of Tasajera Island, off the coast of El Salvador, have welcomed people from FCC to work on a health clinic, a turtle conservation project, computer access, and English language skills. The most valuable outcome of the many trips to Tasajera is the development of solid relationships with Salvadorans on the island.
In Eugene, First Congregational UCC has fostered relationships with sister Catholic churches that have large Latino congregations. FCC members have been active in teaching English to adults in Springfield.
FCC is a natural site for an upcoming event sponsored by CAUSA, Oregon’s Immigrant Rights Coalition. CAUSA is the largest Latino civil and human rights advocacy organization in the Pacific Northwest.
On February 10, 2011, CAUSA will present a program at FCC for the public that particularly addresses public officials in Eugene and Lane County. A small working group at FCC has been working with an ecumenical group of church leaders (both immigrant and nonimmigrant) to host this event. Two critical issues to CAUSA and Oregon will be addressed at the 6 pm meeting:
- Driver’s License Restoration Currently undocumented residents in Oregon cannot get or renew a regular driver’s license. This two-year-old law poses obvious problems of safety, lack of insurance, loss of revenue to the State through licensure and auto registration. In addition, it is an obvious barrier to people who work or have families that must get to school or the doctor or conduct regular business of daily living. The church community supports CAUSA in its efforts to restore access to an Oregon State driver’s license.
- In-state Tuition CAUSA will urge the State Legislature to create policy that allows all students who have graduated from high school or received a GED in Oregon the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to continue post-secondary education regardless of immigration status. Out-of-state tuition for immigrant youth who were raised in Oregon poses an impossible obstacle to most of these young people. Imagine the disincentive to finish high school if you can’t imagine yourself attending college. The public schools are working hard to bridge the achievement gap with minority students, and tuition equity is one way.
The special event at FCC on February 10 is designed to raise awareness and to inspire local officials to urge the State of Oregon to move on these critical issues. The evening will feature two young people giving testimonials about their desire to attend college and two adults testifying about the hardship of living without a driver’s license.
The evening will be highlighted with wonderful music and ended with terrific Mexican food prepared by the women of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Brenda Kame’enui a member of First Congregational UCC in Eugene. She is a public school teacher who works with many Latino families. Brenda participates in FCC’s Mission Committee and has worked with a task force of Eugene churches and CAUSA to prepare for the Leaders Assembly in Eugene on February 10.