Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
GABRIELA GARCIA, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in Hood River County for nearly 30 years, marches with her friend, Everly Boonstra of Hood River.
Community members gathered Wednesday afternoon at Jackson Park for a rally and march to Hood River City Hall in support of DACA Dreamers (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and to encourage the passage of a clean Dream Act in Congress.
“Our Dreamers need a voice,” said Hood River Latino Network President Martha Verduzco, who helped organize the event. “There’s a lot of fear with everything that’s been going on with ICE, and we want to help them,” she said, referring to enforcement actions by the federal agency Immigration Customs Enforcement.
An estimated 75 people attended, of all ages and backgrounds.
“We knew we wouldn’t have a big show — people are afraid — so we were happy with the turnout we had,” said Verduzco. “Extremely happy.”
The rally began with remarks by Verduzco, Mayor Paul Blackburn, and Gabby, a 24-year-old DACA recipient now in danger of deportment.
“It doesn’t matter what ship we came on — we’re all in the same boat now,” said Blackburn, who shared his own family’s immigrant background. “… I’m so sorry about the political climate in 2017.”
“I’m fighting for a great future for my little one,” said Gabby, a DACA recipient who was there with her preschool-aged daughter. “I’m 24. I’m here. We’re all Dreamers — we all dream the same.”
Verduzco thanked Gabby for speaking up — “We want stories from the people who are living it,” she said later — and urged the crowd to call Congressman Greg Walden to demand a clean Dream Act.
“Oregon’s Latino population is growing faster than the national rate,” she said.
In a follow-up interview, Verduzco said that she has relatives who were part of the DACA opportunity and are now living in fear of deportation.
“There’s been people who don’t speak up, and that’s what we’re there for — to be the voice for the most vulnerable,” she said.
“We are really thankful for all of the progressive groups that support the immigrant,” she added. “… We all have the same needs — we all want heath care, we all want great schools, housing, a good environment. (Immigrants are) contributing members of our community and our country. They are people who have fulltime jobs, are allowed to work, and are paying taxes.”
There were several “Legal Observers” at the march, two in special t-shirts, who served as trained bystanders to make sure the march and rally were peaceful — for both those participating and those passing by — and to make sure that those marching felt safe.
“The Gorge ICE Resistance Group we participate in as well has trainings to be bystanders, to make sure things are done in a peaceful manner,” Verduzco said. “We have been training on how to deescalate behavior that can become volatile because that’s not what we want. So bystanders, if someone is harassing (someone) in the march or passing by, these are the people you can go through.”
More events are planned for future dates to support immigrants and answer questions.
“The more we do presentations, the more people say we need to do this more often, ‘Because we’re unaware of the situation and what is actually happening,’” she said.
“We have until March for Congress to hopefully do a new clean Dream Act,” she said.