About 40 community members gathered outside of Pacific University in Forest Grove on Wednesday morning, Oct. 3, wearing their best walking shoes, coats and gloves.
They were preparing to walk from Forest Grove to Hillsboro, joining in on a portion of a seven-day march with a group walking from Sheridan to The Dalles this week.
The seven-day march, led by several immigrant rights activist groups and rural community leaders, aims to call attention to what pro-immigration activists call unjust immigration enforcement. It's also a show of opposition to a ballot measure that would repeal Oregon's so-called "sanctuary state" law, a provision in the state construction that prohibits the use of state and local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration law.
The approximately 40 people participating in the full walk began their week-long journey Sunday evening, Sept. 30, in Sheridan, where undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers have been held in the detention center by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Marchers passed through Newberg before reaching Forest Grove, Cornelius and Hillsboro on Wednesday.
"We are uniting together as a community trying to express community awareness about unjust immigration enforcement," said Hector Hinojosa of Hillsboro. Hinojosa is a community advocate and volunteer who participated in the march from Forest Grove to Hillsboro. "They are marching, and as they go through, the communities are having an opportunity to participate, like we are today in Washington County."
The group, along with some local supporters, stopped at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro to demonstrate opposition to ICE, who have been arresting immigrants in the courthouse — two as recently as Monday, Hinojosa said.
"(There is a) general rippling effect that it's having in our community that is causing fear in an unjust way that is affecting our children," Hinojosa said. "They are afraid for Mom and Dad. All of a sudden, they are missing, and they don't understand why."
Hinojosa, whose family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was young — his parents co-founded Centro Cultural de Washington County — said now is more important than ever to bring awareness to the issues faced by Latinos.
"We need to have an impact for November," Hinojosa said. "We are hoping to raise awareness that says, 'We are not a threat to the society, we are not criminals like some people think and no, we don't exhaust the resources of the United States.'"
He pointed out that a majority of those participating in the march were not Latinos and many were from faith-based organizations.
"It sure makes me feel good, at least wanted in that sense," Hinojosa said, "because what's happening in the political environment is — I certainly don't feel wanted."
Rural Organizing Project, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, ICE Out of Sheridan, Unidos Bridging Community, and many other organizations around the state also played a part in organizing the march.
"We are having this march because we believe family separation is wrong. Family separation isn't just what's been happening at the border and getting a lot of news, but actually folks who are in detention and folks who are deported are being separated from their families every day," said Cara Shufelt with the Rural Organizing Project, who is participating in the full seven-day walk. "So our demands are actually asking for an end to the ICE contract at (Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities), the regional jail, as well as the Federal Correctional Institution Sheridan, the release of all migrants from incarceration, and then asking our neighbors to join us in voting no on Ballot Measure 105."
She added, "Our vision is for a welcoming community where everyone can feel safe, where everyone can go to the grocery store, take their kids to school and not be afraid of being ripped from their families."
Reverend Ron Werner Jr. of Portland, with Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, said it's about standing in solidarity with the people who face fear daily.
"Our goal is to call for an end to detention and deportation and to say 'no' to fear and to say 'yes' to humanity, 'no' to hate and 'yes' to love," he said. "We are here to encourage people to say 'no' on Measure 105, because when we say 'no' to that it means we are saying 'no' to fear and hate and prejudice, and 'yes' to sanctuary for people."
The group enjoyed some homemade Mexican food at Shute Park Wednesday evening, and community members and organizations hosted them for the night as their contribution and show of support in their efforts.
"People have been hosting us (along the way), mostly churches, and it's been really wonderful receiving the hospitality of local communities," Werner Jr. said.
Thursday morning, marchers were off to Portland, then Gresham and eventually the NORCOR jail in The Dalles, where they expect to arrive Saturday morning, Oct. 6, concluding the march.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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