Driver’s License and Tuition Equity – Let’s Accomplish An Oregon Dream Act

By Brenda Kameenui.
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 Kameenui 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.


Justice for Palestinians

By Carol Stirling.
Published January 10, 2011

Palestinian Arabs are an Arabic-speaking Mediterranean people with family origins in Palestine.  In the areas of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, they constitute around 50% of all inhabitants.  The remainder of Palestinians comprise what is known as the Palestinian diaspora, of whom more than half are stateless refugees, lacking citizenship in any country.  Of the diaspora, about 2.6 million make up half the population of neighboring Jordan.  One-and-a-half million are shared between Syria and Lebanon and a quarter million are in Saudi Arabia.  Chile’s half million Palestinians are the largest concentration outside the Arab world.

By religious affiliation, most Palestinians are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam.  A significant minority of Palestinian Christians lives in the Palestinian territories.

Two events this year encouraged me to learn more about the Palestinians and their current state of affairs.  We have a local group called Voices for Palestine in Boise.  “Voices” and the Idaho Peace Coalition hosted a visit from Cindy and Craig Corrie of Washington state.  The Corries’ daughter Rachel, American peace activist, was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli Military bulldozer in Gaza while defending a Palestinian family’s home from demolition.  The Corrie family is currently involved in a civil suit against the government of Israel on charges of “gross negligence” and that Rachel was denied “basic human rights.”

The Corries are founders of the Rachel Corrie Foundation, which continues Rachel’s work with her vision, spirit, and creative energy in mind. The foundation encourages and supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice—all considered prerequisites for world peace.

The other significant event in my Palestinian education was my trip to Israel in October of 2010.  I met a young Palestinian woman reporter from Bethlehem who spoke about human rights violations of Palestinians by the Israeli government.  Israel continues to tighten its grip on the Palestinian territories, with peoples and land separated by barrier walls.  Palestinians face some 20 laws that discriminate against them with court decisions also stacked against them. Israel controls the Jordan River Valley so has completely enclosed the Palestinians in their shrunken and divided territory of the West Bank.  Gaza is surrounded by a similar barrier with no access to the outside world by air, sea or land.  Palestinian refugees and exiles continue to be denied the right to return.

I recommend Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid for an extensive look at the attempts at peace from 1948 (formation of the state of Israel) to the present.  President Carter believes in two keys to peace in the region:  Israel must recognize and abide by the resolutions, accords and policies since 1948 that require Israel to withdraw from occupied territories.  Palestinians must accept the same commitment made by the 23 Arab nations in 2002 that recognize Israel’s right to lie in peace within its legal borders.

Carol Stirling a member of Boise First Congregational UCC.  She is active in numerous local and international human rights issues.