Tag Archives: VOZ

The Portland World Cup brings together immigrants for community and competition

By Alex Zielinski, Staff Writer

It’s early evening at Northeast Portland’s Fernhill Park and the manicured soccer fields are swarming with cleat-clad players. As the hot summer sun lowers to a tolerable temperature, young boys, assembled as a team, lace up their matching Nike cleats, watching a nearby group of teenage girls juggle a soccer ball while checking their smart phones.

In the middle of the hoard of minivan-escorted athletes, squeezed onto half a field, one group stands out from the rest. With an average age of 25 to 30, these older players may appear less equipped for the game: Some wear beat-up sneakers without shin guards; others are dragged onto the field to scrimmage wearing jeans. But their enthusiasm is infectious.

“Buenos días!” the players shout at other teammates as they arrive, somehow bursting with energy after long days of physical work or waiting in long lines for unattained work. Neighborhood friends bring their families to watch, carting water coolers and lawn chairs, cheering and joking with the group. On the field, some players dribble the ball easily around the defense, while others stumble with their footwork. Regardless of talent, these guys are clearly having the most fun of any team at the park. Continue reading

Local immigrant rights advocates seek protections against ‘Arizonafication’


Staff reports

Human rights activists are campaigning to make sure Multnomah County doesn’t go the way of some parts of the country where “Arizona-style” policies have damaged immigrant trust in the community.

Portland Jobs with Justice, which comprises several immigrant and labor justice groups, along with Voz Workers’ Rights Education project want local authorities to back up a resolution they passed months ago with stronger protections for immigrant residents.

“What we want is to continue the work we have done,” says Romeo Sosa, executive director of Voz, which works with day laborers. “We just don’t want the resolution on paper. We really want them to take more action.”

The Restoring Trust campaign, which seeks to regain trust between the immigrant communities and law enforcement, was spurred on by the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the Arizona immigration law. That decision struck down much of the law, but upheld the requirement that state law enforcement officers determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest, if they suspect that person is in the country illegally.

Nationally, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has implemented a program of detainment called Security Communities, which requests that local law enforcement officers detain people they arrest for 48 hours longer than required in order for ICE officials to determine their status. It’s a practice that immigrant rights advocates say leads to racial profiling and mistrust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.

In March, the Multnomah County Commissioners passed a resolution in an attempt to put some oversight into the federal program.

“The Board of County Commissioners shares the public’s deep concern regarding issues raised by ICE’s mandatory implementation of the Secure Communities Program in County jails, including but not limited to, the erosion of public trust and public safety and the current and potential impact it may have on the County’s General Fund,” states the resolution, which is non-binding.

The resolution asks that ICE’s local operatives exercise “prosecutorial discretion” and communicate with the region on how it plans to fund, train and implement its tracking and evaluation methods.

The resolution also asks for information on the people from the region being deported, including the number of minors that have been deported or are in the process of removal, U.S.-born minors whose parents have been deported or are in the process of being deported. The county also wants to know how many men and women with child dependents that have been deported or are in the process, and how many families have been separated as a result of deportation.

On July 11, as part of a national week of action, representatives from VOZ and Jobs with Justice addressed the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners with examples Multnomah County can follow. They cite the TRUST Act, passed in California earlier this month, which requires police to release individuals who have posted bail, provided they do not face serious charges and have no serious prior convictions — regardless of federal detainer requests. The Restoring Trust campaign also heralds similar efforts in Cook County, Ill., Santa Clara, Calif., the state of Connecticut and Washington, D.C., that have approved legislation that sets standards for responding to ICE hold requests to protect against racial profiling.

However, other states, such as Georgia, have followed Arizona’s lead by enacting harsher policies on the treatment of immigrants.

Advocates say that in addition to racial profiling and civil rights violations, ICE holds also inadvertently lead to the removal of victims and witnesses, the detention of U.S. citizens, and serious economic burdens on local law enforcement agencies who foot the cost for longer incarceration periods.

The Restore Truth campaign also claims that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from “commandeering” state and local resources for federal objectives, prevents the federal government from mandating state or local compliance with ICE holds.

Lt. Steve Alexander with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department says officers have changed nothing in their practice of holding detainees since the Secure Communities come into operation several years ago.

“We have not changed our procedures here (regarding Security Communities) at this time,” Alexander says. “ICE has a separate process. We don’t notify anybody.”

The nearest ICE detention facility is in Tacoma, Wash., but ICE does manage a short-terms holding facility in Portland, which sends detainees to Tacoma.

Check out the Restoring Trust Campaign here. 

Day Labor Center struggles with demand for work

On a blistering cold December morning last Monday, 20 Latino people—all men, except for one woman—are sitting inside the non-descript mobile home that serves as Portland’s Day Labor Center. The sounds of people speaking Spanish quietly fills  the room. One small space heater, as well as the warmth from the people, go a long way to keep the room, with a concrete floor and high ceiling, warm.

A small group of men are playing cards, slapping down the cards with gusto and laughing at jokes. The woman is leaning her head against her partner’s shoulder. Others are just sitting and waiting.

What they are waiting for is work. Many of the laborers using the Day Labor Center, which is operated by VOZ, a nonprofit advocating for day-laborers and immigrants, may wait days before an employer drives up to the center and their raffle number is picked. Continue reading

City bails on funding Visions Into Action – PSU picks up the slack


(Kerfala Bangoura (“Fana”) performs outside City Council Chambers as audience members file in to testify on behalf of the Visions Into Action program.)

The City Council hearing on the evening of May 20 was best summarized by Sisters of the Road co-founder Genny Nelson: “It is not business as usual in Portland.”

Indeed, the individuals giving testimony about the VisionPDX public engagement process and its progeny, the Vision Into Action coalition (VIA), stood in direct contrast to the city’s overwhelmingly white majority. Africans, Cambodians, Iraqis, Latinos and other immigrant and ethnic minority populations packed the seats in council chambers and stepped up to the microphone, detailing in voices alternately shaky and forceful how VIA had empowered their communities — and why the city should not go forward with its planned elimination of VIA’s $339,416 budget. Continue reading

Immigrant workers face extremes of economic crisis


Published in the May 1 edition of Street Roots

Growing up in the riverfront manufacturing town of St. Helens, Yesenia Sanchez knew only a handful of other Latino families. Born in Oregon to Mexican immigrant parents, she was one of the only non-white students in her class. Still, she says, she was never aware of any significant racial tension.

That changed last year, when economic troubles stirred political unrest, which in turn brought animosity bubbling to the surface.

Columbia County, where St. Helens is located, has a small but fairly settled Latino community. Some, like Sanchez, are citizens, some are legal residents, and others are undocumented immigrants.
In November, Columbia County voters passed a ballot initiative to penalize businesses that employed undocumented workers with a $10,000 fine or revocation of their business license. Another measure, which was voted down, would have required construction sites to display large signs declaring them for legal workers only. Latinos in the community, regardless of their immigration status, felt targeted.

“I’d never really experienced overt racism, or at least not that I can remember,” says Sanchez, now a college student at the University of Oregon in Eugene. “I never thought that part of my community wanted to essentially kick me out — didn’t want me there, my family there.”

Columbia County isn’t the only place Latinos are feeling the pressures of the recession in full force.

Oregon is home to almost 400,000 Latinos, most from Mexico. Their median income in 2007 was just over $18,000 per person a year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center; the average for Oregon is about $25,000. Latinos were already more likely than other Oregonians to live in poverty and less likely to own their own homes.

Continue reading