A march for justice, equality

Facing uncertain times in an unpopular new presidential administration, about 1,500 people took to the streets of Salem for a May Day rally, with chants of “Si se puede!” filling the air at the Oregon State Capitol.

Sponsored by OSEA and Causa Oregon, the rally is an annual reminder of the plight of immigrant families in a time where they face new threats, a celebration of the contributions of all workers, and a reminder of the benefits diversity brings society.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was first to take the podium, saying she had the backs of Oregon’s migrants and their families. She said that immigrant labor and innovation is critical to the state’s robust agriculture, technology and timber sectors.

“Your voice is very important and I want you to know I hear you,” Brown said. “I know this is an uncertain and scary time for Oregon’s immigrant and refugee families. I want you to know my support for you is unwavering. As long as I’m governor, Oregon will be welcoming and inclusive to all who call our state home.”

OSEA President Tim Stoelb said the federal government’s recent push to demonize immigrants undermines the very principles our country was founded upon: That “in America, you can rise as far as your abilities allow, regardless of your race or place of birth.” He added that undocumented immigrants “willingly accept work that nobody else wants.”

“Today, hard-working contributors to society are being threatened,” Stoelb continued. “Regardless of whether or not they have done anything wrong, they are being profiled and targeted for deportation. As a result, they are fearful for themselves and their families.”

Referencing the oft-quoted Statue of Liberty engraving that “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” he said there is “nothing in that quote that restricts who we will accept in our country — and it never should. America has always been the beacon of hope in this world. Rather than build a wall, we should instead work together to build strong communities free from hate, free from profiling, free from fear, so the United States can be truly united again.”

After this series of rousing speeches, the lively crowd pulsed around the capitol and the streets of downtown Salem. Photos from the event can be found on our Flickr page.

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