Saturday, February 11, 2017

Immigrant Rights Action Day In Salem Has Something To Teach All Of Us

Photo from Causa

Once again this week I was gifted to be present with people of color, in a room with a positive movement and with a forward-looking program and the people in motion. The Immigrant Rights Action Day held at Chemeketa Community College today brought together the Latino/a community at an especially important moment, helped turn concern and fear into something much more positive, gave people information they needed, provided a cushion for families and feed people as well.

This was more of a peoples' assembly than it was a meeting, more of a working-class and youth gathering in response to crises than it was a speak-out or something that only ran one way. Everything that was said by the speakers was helpful and necessary, but I think that the real victory today was in the size of the turn-out, that it was Latino/a working-class people and youth and multigenerational, that the opposition did not attempt to disrupt things and that the children and youth who showed up are gaining organizing experience and hearing conversations about serious things and seeing transformation through mass action.

The event was not "political" in the sense that time was spent listening to good words from politicians, but it was certainly political in the sense that competent community leadership is in organizing mode and responding to the peoples' needs. It was political in the best sense: a working model of how people learn best, mobilize, get the word out and organize. The movement in Woodburn and, more and more, in Salem really has, well, movement. It has a base among the people and the working-class. This didn't fall from the sky. It was created by strong women like Andrea, Delia, Lorena, Sandra, Belinda and by so many others. And we really are fortunate to have them here with us.

The ACLU representative gave needed instructions, the lawyers were especially helpful and even the cops who showed up gave good advice. The day moved fast. One of the most important comments that I heard came from a speaker who pointed out that sanctuary cities and institutions create a false sense of security unless ICE and other related agencies are forbidden to intervene and if data collection and contact between agencies are not stopped and if people demobilize.

Here are the shortcomings: allies are not showing up and helping in the numbers needed, necessary struggles like Health Care For All and other liberal/progressive efforts are not there and don't have Spanish-speakers in leadership and Spanish-language materials, there is not a counterpart to this struggle well-organized among other people of color and whites in Salem yet, and the labor movement is not represented there. Where were our mayor and the "progressive" City Council people? The organizers who put the assembly together and the people who attended today should not be fighting on their own at this point.

The rest of the movement here needs to think hard about organizing and trust. Do we trust the people and the workers and love them enough to fight alongside of them? Could an all-peoples' assembly be called in Salem to build solidarity around immigrant rights and a human services budget and workplace rights, environmental justice and LGBTQIA+ and womens' rights? To what extent do local activists help build and undermine peoples' unity and solidarity? Please think about these questions in the context in which the Latino/a movement is gifting us with.

             Photo from Ramon Ramirez

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