Immigration raids turn Woodburn, Oregon, into a ghost townIn Woodburn, Oregon, Latinos aren’t a fringe minority. They are the very fabric of the town. Since President Trump’s immigration order, the dream many families worked decades to build has begun to unravel. Full story: http://trib.al/VQIN17w
This is what the fear of deportation can do to a town.
Woodburn, Ore. is a rural, agricultural town that has a population of about 25,000. It is Oregon’s largest city with a Latino majority (roughly 60 percent). According to The Oregonian, the Latino population — one quarter of the Latinos there are undocumented — is what helps the town thrive. Yet, the recent narrative of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and detentions have struck fear into the heart of the town and it is the town that has begun to suffer. When ICE agents started to show up in the town, undocumented residents went into hiding rarely leaving their homes to work or even shop for food.
“Almost everybody in town is impacted,” Woodburn school superintendent Chuck Ransom told The Oregonian. “Everybody knows somebody or is related to somebody for whom that situation is real. Nobody can escape.”
The Oregonian has reported that business has dropped by a staggering 80 percent since ICE raids and detentions began in Woodburn. They further report that since the ’40s, Woodburn has a long history of being propped up and built by the same Latino community that is under attack now. For decades, the Latino community has helped to boost the economy in Oregon and Woodburn by working on the farms, now they are too scared to go out without being rounded up by ICE.
Just when you thought humanity has failed us, someone steps up and shows the world that the generosity of the human spirit is alive and well.
Last week, a post on Reddit went viral of a group of volunteer firefighters from Guanajuato, Mexico who traveled to the city of Ashland, Oregon to help fight the wildfires that are blazing across the western state.
The fire department is called Heroico Cuerpo de Bomberos Voluntarios, the Heroic Volunteer Fire Department, in English.
The two towns have had a “sister city” relationship for over 50 years. Sister-city relationships are meant to “promote peace and understanding through exchanges that focus on arts and culture, youth and education, business and trade, and community development”.
The internet swiftly erupted into comments praising the volunteer firefighters for their bravery and comradery. “Mexico also sent relief during Katrina. Mexico and Canada are our best allies, always there for us regardless of the politics,” one commenter said. Another chimed in: “Welcome to Oregon, amigos. Mantenga una bota en el quemado.”
The troop of men who traveled from Mexico to the United States were identified as Captain Aldo Iván Ruiz, Captain Juan Armando Alvarez Villegas, Sargent Jorge Luis Anguiano Jasso, Sargent Luis Alfonso Campos Martínez and Miguel Ángel Hernández Lara. They were accompanied by the mayor of Guanajuato, Alejandro Navarro.
“We began the relief work,” Navarro wrote on Twitter. “Very moved by the terrible impact of the fire on families and their homes.”
The Oregon wildfires are just one of the many that are blazing down the West Coast of the United States, taking people’s homes, land, and sometimes, their lives. In more than 1 million acres have burned and two dozen fires are still raging.
“Almost every year since becoming governor, I’ve witnessed historic fire seasons,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown recently said at a press conference. “Yet this is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state.”
Experts are hypothesizing that these unprecedented fires are further evidence of the toll man-made climate change is having on the environment.
“I can’t think of any time over the last 100 years where we’ve had serial fire outbreaks, four years running,” said fire historian Stephen Pyne to the Washington Post. “That I can find no record of happening before,” he added. “That is the big switch; that is the phase change.”
Regardless of what has caused the fires, the bravery of these firefighters is worth commendable. Their actions are further proof that borders cannot contain the universal values of kindness, altruism, and brotherhood.
Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.
But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.
Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.
Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.
Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.
In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.
In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.
“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”
However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.
Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form.
The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.
Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.
Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.
According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.
A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.
Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.
The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.
Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost.
“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.
Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.
“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”