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Project Voice immigrant rights program hosts fundraiser concert in Hillsboro on Saturday, May 18.

COURTESY PHOTO: PROJECT VOICE - Project Voice and local musicians raise funds to support  Know Your Rights trainings for immigrants in Oregon and Washington. Leaving your home country isn't easy.

For Pedro Sosa, the immigrant rights program director for American Friends Service Committee, he emigrated as a refugee from Guatemala because he had to.

Today, Sosa works alongside people who have faced similar obstacles by educating refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

Part of the K'iche' indigenous community, Sosa moved to Los Angeles in 1992 and finally to Oregon almost 20 years ago.

"I came to the United States because I couldn't live in Guatemala anymore, and I started to look for a place we could live in peace," Sosa said. "That is why I am working and passionate to do work with the immigrant community I belong to."

In 2003, Sosa was hired to work with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and currently serves as the Immigrant Rights program director for the western region, which includes Oregon and Washington.

AFSC was founded in 1917, and is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice. Its program, Project Voice, focuses on educating the community on immigrant rights, helps communities create rapid response teams, and provides Know Your Rights trainings so that immigrants and their allies know how to respond and protect themselves.

An opportunity to support Project Voice is coming to Hillsboro, as it holds its first fundraising concert in the area.

COURTESY PHOTO: PROJECT VOICE  - American Friends Service Committee's immigrant rights program, Project Voice, is headed by Pedro Sosa in the western region, which includes Oregon and Washington. At 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18, Hillsboro United Methodist Church/Las Naciones will host a two-hour concert by local artists including Samuel Davila and Alonso Oliveras, Tom Rawson, Caleb and Jessica Paul, and Bajo Salario.  

Open to all ages, the event will celebrate and share the work done by Project Voice and will include food, opportunities to sing along and a chance to meet others.

Pat Rumer, who organized the concert alongside Sosa, traveled to Guatemala more than 50 years ago as an AFSC community development volunteer.

"I come to this work with a deep commitment to the AFSC and immigrant rights work," Rumer said. "I used to work in an indigenous community in the northern highlands not too far from where Pedro was from. It really made me understand U.S. policy toward Central America and the ups and downs and the ins and outs."

Later, Rumer worked in Arizona and visited women at detention centers in the area.

"The experience underscored, for me, what Pedro is doing here in the Northwest with knowing your rights and rapid response," she said.

Sosa has worked closely with Forest Grove nonprofit Adelante Mujeres in the past, as well as other organizations in the area.

COURTESY PHOTO: PROJECT VOICE - Know Your Rights trainings by Project Voice educates attendees on the Constitution and interacts with activities like role-playing exercises.The Know Your Rights trainings by Sosa, held anywhere from churches to schools, see high attendance numbers, and Sosa said he is always happily surprised to see the number of people ready to learn, many who live in Washington County.

Sosa's focus is to educate and prepare immigrants regarding their rights as well as organize entire communities to respond to potential Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids or detention. The workshop provides analysis of the Constitution with focus on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments, and interacts with attendees with activities such as role-playing exercises, Sosa said.

"We practice in that moment that they understand," he said. "It's not just a presentation; it's more than that. It's important to the community. It can last up to three to four hours, and the people will continue wanting to discuss because they get excited and want to ask questions and practice. We make the people get mad on purpose to understand the issue. They have fun and see how we can make changes. This is not only about understanding your rights, but it's to make change, because it's our human rights."

The concert's proceeds will go to Project Voice and supporting the workshops as Sosa travels all over, from as far as Forks, Washington, to Ontario, Oregon, to closer to home in the Portland metro area.

"One of the reasons for doing this, as this is our third year of doing it, is the concert is a community builder," Rumer said. "People gather, immigrants and allies, from all over and say, 'Oh, we're all interested in the same thing.' We are going to have fun too."

Tickets are available online for $20 at Cost the night of the concert is $25, payable by cash or check. Children under age 12 get in free.

By Janae Easlon
Features Editor
Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
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