Maybe a microcosm, but community's outcomes are different
Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local."
Our community is proving that axiom, yet again. This month, we have been at the nexus of two of the most compelling stories coming out of Washington, D.C., in a while: the ever-changing Affordable Care Act and DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Election results from last Tuesday's election indicate Measure 101 has won handily. Unofficial results show a landslide in Oregon and in Washington County.
Measure 101 is the Oregon Legislature's temporary funding mechanism to expand Medicaid. And expanding Medicaid is what the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) is all about.
Meanwhile, Portland Community College just opened the Center for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors — or DREAM Center — at the Rock Creek campus here in Washington County. The center is aimed at helping undocumented immigrants attending the college get access to resources.
By backing Measure 101 — a very complicated issue — Oregonians are giving their approval of Oregon's push to expand Medicaid. Oregon has one of the highest levels of insured residents in the nation because the state fully embraced the Medicaid expansion promise of the Obama administration. Currently, people who make 100 percent of the federal poverty level (about $24,000 annually for a family of four) are covered.
But in 2017, the Legislature crafted a bipartisan deal to cover people between 101 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level (about $33,000 annually for a family of four).
Three Republican lawmakers were unhappy to be on the losing end of that vote and referred the issue to voters. That's what Measure 101 was all about.
It should be pointed out that the funding mechanism is a two-year pilot program, and we're more than six months into that period. If the funding mechanism isn't working, lawmakers would know soon enough and would be in a position to fix it.
It also is an example of politics done the way it's supposed to be done: Lawmakers of both parties and both chambers met for months, compromised, and hammered out a funding scheme that garnered Democratic and Republican votes. That kind of lunch-bucket lawmaking, so noticeably absent in D.C., should be applauded here in Oregon.
Measure 101 was truly a solution in search of a problem.
Meanwhile, the whole debate over DACA and the so-called Dreamers — young people brought illegally to the United State by their parents, and who face deportation to countries they don't know or can't remember — was at the heart of the three-day government shutdown earlier this month, and the three-week extension of budget talks.
Oregon has a long history of snubbing federal mandates. DACA is no exception. The Trump administration stormed into office threatening to punish so-called "sanctuary cities" — those communities that expressly forbid local police from acting as an arm of federal immigration authorities.
In Hillsboro, local officials were undaunted by the administration's rhetoric. Not quite a year ago, the Hillsboro City Council declared the county seat to be a sanctuary city, joining neighboring Beaverton in so doing. But even communities that opted not to use "sanctuary" language, like Forest Grove, are covered — in fact, the entire state can be considered a sanctuary. Oregon law forbids cities and counties from acting as de facto immigration authorities.
(To debunk a common misperception: Of course police can detain someone if, in the course of an investigation, they discover they are in the United States illegally. What police in Oregon cannot do is ask random people — say, at a traffic stop, or just in passing — to prove they are citizens.)
That's why PCC's decision to open the DREAM Center is to be applauded. At a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is at its hottest nationwide, Oregon's largest institution of post-secondary eduction — remember, PCC's enrollment is almost as large as that of the state's seven universities combined — has opened its doors and its arms for immigrants.
The center will help undocumented students navigate and connect with resources within PCC, and with other resources across the community. It is funded by a $50,000 grant from the Oregon Immigrant and Refugee Funder Collaborative and Meyer Memorial Trust.
In Washington, issues like the ACA and DACA have taken on a Sisyphean feel: forever pushing a rock uphill to no avail. But not here in Oregon. Measure 101 passed by a wide margin. And the DREAM Center repudiates the anti-immigration rumblings to state, quite clearly, this value: If you are here, you deserve access to education.
Both programs are designed to give a leg up to Oregon residents most in need — be they low-income people with health issues, or newly arrived immigrants.
Let that stand as testament to the old marketing mantra — Oregon: Things look different here.
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