Sen. Wyden and state representatives pledge to protect undocumented immigrants at Oregon capitol

Around 600 people from across Oregon rallied at the Oregon State Capitol, before marching around it. (Andrew Field / Emerald)

Around 600 Oregon protesters rallied around the state capitol in Salem on Jan. 14, showing support for elected representatives and organizers vowing to protect undocumented immigrants and their families.

Residents from across Oregon filled the Oregon State Capitol fountain grounds at 2:00 p.m. They cheered to speeches from U.S. Senator Wyden, state and district representatives, along with immigrant’s rights advocates. The leaders expressed defiance to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises, which includes to overturn Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“[Trump]’s policies lack empathy, lack compassion. They lack the understanding that undocumented workers and their families are key components of the American economy — and that they are Americans,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said to the crowd, alongside a Spanish translator. Wyden told the Emerald that he will support the Bridge Act, a bipartisan legislation introduced to U.S. Senate last month to allow those receiving DACA to remain in the United States. DACA protects young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation, and provides them with temporary work permits.

Jeff Stone, Executive Director of Oregon Association of Nurseries, cited a report his group, along with business and civic leaders, released. According to the report, immigrants make up 10 percent of Oregon’s population and contributed $24.4 billion in taxes and earn 9 percent of state earnings.

“You are important,” Stone said. “In America, every immigrant class has come to our country and made it better. And one of our most enduring symbols — the Statue of Liberty — embodies the great torch of freedom that welcomes the world to our shores.”

The crowd became especially animated when newly-elected Oregon House of Representatives leader Teresa Alonso Leon was introduced. She became the first immigrant Latina to be elected to Oregon State Legislature.

The daughter of migrant workers, Leon described picking berries during summers to support her family. She eventually became the first person in her family to graduate from college, which she said was due to her hard-work, but not without the “kindness of dedicated educators.” One of Leon’s campaign goals was for increased college affordability.

“I remember years ago standing on these same steps as a young girl for the first time. When I was here then, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” Leon said in front of the capitol building. “Now, just days ago, my young niece Emma, was able to watch her tia be sworn in as state representative, and it brought tears to my eyes.” She said that Emma now aspires to be the first Latina president of the United States.

Fatima Preciado was the last speaker. Preciado is a DACA recipient, who was brought to America from Apatzingan, Mexico.

“As a four-year-old crossing the border, I did not understand the complexity, risk and sacrifice my parents were making by bringing me to this country,” Preciado said. “But now that I understand, I am not ashamed.”

Preciado was named 2016 Oregon Youth of the Year by Oregon’s Boys & Girls Clubs in her senior year, and then became the first in her family to attend a four-year university. But that could be taken away from her, if President-elect Trump follows through with his talk of repealing DACA.

“The threat is real and we need our state leaders to protect us from Trump’s dangerous and inhumane policies,” Preciado said.

The crowd then marched around the capitol — where two protestors held a banner with an image of the Statue of Liberty. It read “No Human Being is Illegal.”


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