Immigration reform protests often make the news. It doesn't take much searching to find a headline talking about a hunger strike in Washington D.C. or a rally in Phoenix. But, a sit-in in Oregon? It's true, recently a peaceful sit-in was staged at the Washington County Sheriff's office in Oregon. The Oregonian reports that “more than 40 immigrants, activists and allies marched into the [office], pumping their fists and shouting ‘undocumented, unafraid.'”
According to The Oregonian, the protest was in response to some recent changes that have gone into effect at most sheriff's offices in Oregon. These changes include sheriffs no longer “honoring immigration officials' requests to hold cleared inmates for deportation without a warrant or court order.”
Washington County, the site of the protest, was one of the first counties in Oregon to revise its immigration policy and protesters did not wait long to share their feelings. “Activists said they wanted to ensure that Sheriff Pat Garrett complies with the new policy and let him know they won't forget the deportations that have already taken place.”
Included in the protest was six Washington County residents who told their own personal stories about being undocumented in the United States. For all of them, this was the first time they publicly shared their stories. The organizers referred to this as “coming out of the shadows.” And, although this was the first time the organization, Oregon DreamActivist, had held an event in Washington County, it has helped organize three similar protests in Multnomah County, just about 30 miles away.
When asked by reporters, Garrett said that he “agreed with the group's message.” He went on to say that he does not think that undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. should be afraid to come out and speak about their immigration status. Garrett went on to say that the Washington County Sheriff's Office has never enforced immigration law, although it does work with various federal agencies.
Once the protest had begun, officials at the sheriff's office stopped the demonstrators from using loudspeakers and encouraged them to go outside. In response, the group immediately sat down on the floor of the office. "We're letting you know that our community is watching you," said undocumented activist Sindy Avila. "A secure community is an organized community."
After Sheriff Garrett became aware of the protest, he came out to meet the protesters and even answered some questions from the group. He noted how important it is to have trust from the community. This peaceful protest, he said, is “one example, because it showed that nothing bad happens when residents interact peacefully with local police.”
The protesters seemed to have been satisfied at the end of the day. They wanted to make sure that the sheriff's office understood that the community was holding it to a high standard and they will not be afraid to speak out if that standard is not met.
Do protests like these make a substantial impact on those who have the ability to change U.S. immigration policy? Why or why not?