The Struggle Continues in Columbia County: Community Members Reflect on Significance of Anti-Immigrant Ballot Measure and Plan Next Steps
Scappoose, Oregon – Columbia County has been thrust into the public eye statewide after the passage of an anti-immigrant ballot measure last Tuesday.
Measure 5-190 intends to impose a $10,000 fine on any employer found to be hiring undocumented immigrants, and require county employers to register with the federal E-Verify program. On Election Day, the vote was split with 57% in favor and 43% against. (http://www.co.columbia.or.us/elections/results/EL45.HTM)
A local community organization waged a strong grassroots campaign against the measure knowing that the odds of defeat were not in their favor. Throughout the last few months, Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity (CCCHD) mobilized over 300 volunteers to have personal conversations with 13,387 of the 28,053 voters in the county. This army of volunteers logged 1,652 volunteer hours, hand-addressed 11,000 postcards, had 26 letters to the editor published in local papers, and prevented a landslide victory of the measure.
But, as CCCHD volunteer and campaign co-chair Craig Frasier said, “We know that our work is just beginning. We are not defeated, but much the opposite: our organization is stronger because of this campaign, and we now have hundreds of our neighbors who are ready to do the work that is ahead of us.”
A week after the election, CCCHD leader and Director of the Rural Organizing Project, Marcy Westerling of Scappoose reflected on why the measure passed, “We are a rural, working-class community. Similar to communities across the country, we are affected by the economic crisis that we are facing, and confused about what the solution may be. Our government’s lack of leadership with regards to immigration, workers’ rights, and the economy has created fertile grounds for divisive politics and the scapegoating of immigrants.”
Ernie Klostermann, a CCCHD volunteer, added that, “We spoke to voters about the economic impacts that this ballot measure would have on our community, which does not have the resources to deal with a poorly written and divisive ballot measure. The economic crisis that we are dealing with should be taken very seriously, but punitive measures that target certain groups in our own community are not the answer.”
Next steps for CCCHD involve educating workers and employers about the possible impacts of the measure, mounting legal challenges against it, and supporting the Latino community to develop its own organization in Columbia County capable of offering support to families who have been or may be affected by the passage of this measure. A standing room only community meal for over 200 people started the long term planning process this past Saturday night in Columbia County. This next Saturday, November 15th, the first of a series of training’s for employers will kick off. Columbia County plans to stay pro-worker, pro-business and pro-community as it navigates the impact of a new policy mandate. County Chambers of Commerce and state Representative Brad Witt have already issued statements of calm and patience.