Protesters want state action for immigrants, refugees


Protesters want state action for immigrants, refugees

Published 6:53 p.m. PT Feb. 1, 2017 | Updated 9:38 a.m. PT Feb. 2, 2017

Hundreds of people gathered on the Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon urging the Oregon State Legislature to take action to protect and defend immigrants and refugees.

Last Friday, President Trump suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, banned all immigrants from seven Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya — for 90 days, and ordered his administration to develop “extreme vetting” measures for immigrants from those countries to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.

“We want actions … That’s why we are here today,” said Francisco Lopez, political director for Voz Hispana, the immigrant rights organization responsible for organizing the rally.

The organization released a list of six demands.

  1. We urge the Oregon State Legislature to pass a legislation that would allow the state to spend up to $20 million dollars to provide lawyers for people facing deportation.
  2. The State of Oregon should file a lawsuit against the Trump administration and seek a restraining order to stop enforcement of the immigration and refugee ban.
  3. The State of Oregon should file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the executive order that would withhold funds from Sanctuary Cities if they refuse to comply with his immigration orders.
  4. Sanctuary policies that prohibit police from cooperating with immigration authorities should be extended by the Oregon State Legislature by prohibiting police officers, Sheriff Deputies, jailers and public employees from arresting, detaining, becoming informants and reporting people due to their immigration status to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). State and local law enforcement agencies could not help investigate immigration violations, inquire about someone’s immigration status, or provide addresses to immigration officers. 
  5. The Oregon State Legislature should pass a legislation that will make sure that Oregon’s law enforcement databases will be off limits for immigration investigations. 
  6. The State of Oregon should have zero tolerance (for) racism, discrimination, and raids conducted by immigration customs enforcement. We should pass a legislation that (assures) victims of racism, discrimination due to their immigration status, race, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation and their religious beliefs have full access to state services. 

The rally coincided with the first day of the Legislative session.

“What makes America great is its diversity,” said Jorge Rodriguez via Lopez translating. “Brothers and sisters, we are not criminals; we are hard working people. We want all cities to be sanctuaries.”

Protesters held signs Wednesday with messages in support of those already in Oregon and against the Trump administration’s actions, including “Together, we rise,” “Oregon will not become a cog in the Trump machine,” “Love trumps fear, refugees are welcome here,” and “Super callous fragile racist sexist nazi POTUS.”

The crowd listened to speakers from a handful of groups for an hour in the nearly 40-degree weather before entering the Capitol to deliver the list of demands to representatives and senators.

At one point, protesters held hands and cheered, “Sí, se puede,” Spanish for “Yes, it is possible” or “Yes, we can.”

Speakers did not mention a specific bill currently facing the legislature they support.

Gregory McKelvery, 23, is a law student and leader for the Portland Resistance, an activist group.

He said some people were not able to attend the rally, but he encouraged those who did to network and establish a community for future action.

He also spoke to the fear of many people they will be deported, even if they are here legally.

“This is not normal,” he said. “This is not OK.”

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, more than 64,000 refugees have resettled in Oregon since 1975. Most of these refugees initially settle in the greater Portland metro area.

Currently, the most common refugee groups arriving in Oregon are from Cuba, Burma, Bhutan, Iran, Iraq, and Somalia.

As for immigrants, Oregon is home to more than 391,000 immigrants, making about 10 percent of all Oregonians “foreign-born.”

More than 11 million immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States illegally, according to the PEW Research Center and Migration Policy Institute.

By comparison, in 2014, around 47 percent, or 20 million, of all U.S. immigrants were naturalized U.S. citizens. The remaining 53 percent, or 22.4 million, included lawful permanent residents, unauthorized immigrants, and legal residents on temporary visas, such as students and temporary workers.

For more information, contact Voz Hispana by calling 503-884-2679, emailing or going online.

Information about the Oregon State Legislature and current bills can be found at

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate and Facebook at

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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