By Aleita Hass-Holcombe, First Congregational UCC, Corvallis, OR
dentention center tacomaDid you know that not far from here is one of the country’s largest for-profit detention centers in the country? Tacoma, Washington is the home of Northwest Detention Center, operated by the GEO Corporation.1

On March 7, 1200 people held at the center began a hunger strike and work stoppage. The hunger strikers join a nation-wide movement of resistance against unprecedented levels of detention and deportation. During President Obama’s administration nearly 2,000,000 people have been deported. To learn more about actions against deportations see the #Not 1 More Deportation web site.

The situation in Tacoma is only the tip of the iceberg.  What underlies this situation requires a look at the bigger picture of the for-profit prison system in America.  Profits of for-profit prisons are up by 500% from 20 years ago.2 $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists have encouraged politicians to support the for-profit system. Unknown to most Americans, some states sign agreements to guarantee they will fill a certain number of beds in these jails at any given point? The most common rate is 90%.2  


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:

Brenda Kame’enui
First Congregational Church
Eugene, Oregon