The Young Dynamo Driving Unite Oregon’s Measure 105 Fight

In June of this year, Alessandra de la Torre graduated Southern Oregon University (SOU) with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. When asked why, she demonstrated the penchant of humanities majors for eloquence.

 

When I chose Sociology,” she answered, “I planned to use it for systematic change based on sociological phenomena. In my mind, if you have evidence through valid research methods, then you can make your case of why something is working or not. Applied Sociology is this exactly. Taking your research and applying it to different processes, whether that be for social agencies, corporations or government bureaus to improve or ameliorate their systems for the good of the people they serve.”

 

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Due to Southern Oregon’s population, de la Torre was one of a handful of Latinx students choosing to participate in the program. Naturally, latinx-related issues dominated their papers and project selections. Which served them, by keeping the curriculum as relavent as possible, the sociological concepts the teachers sought to impart crossover into the Latinx student’s consciousness.

 

De la Torre said, “Sociology is one of the smaller sized majors, yet has an amazing reputation at SOU since the professors are actively working in this field outside of the classroom. They are conducting research and have their studies as references for their students. It is inspiring to read professor’s studies and it also allows one to envision a career after college that is directly reflective of your major.”

 

Out in the Field

The Unite Oregon office is located in Medford, Oregon, approximately 20 miles from SOU. A Rogue Valley chapter of the social justice organization enjoys over two decades of activity. With the mid-term less than one month away, de la Torre is advancing towards the end game of a campaign. The hyper-focus is evident – and necessary.

 

“The latest campaign Unite Oregon is pushing is a NO vote on Measure 105. This measure is being backed by both state and out-of-state anti-immigrant organizations as well as Oregon State Representatives. If this harmful measure passes, it will allow for local law enforcement and state agencies cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This puts our civil rights on the line as well as allocates local and state resources in the wrong places. We CANNOT let racial profiling become acceptable in the means to apprehend undocumented folks as well as increase the trauma of family separation. The current immigration laws that have been in place for the last 30-years in Oregon are working to keep local crime at the center of law enforcement responsibilities, which in turn makes our communities safer,” de la Torre explains.

 

In contrast, sixteen Oregon sherriffs signed a letter making the argument for an expansion of their policing options. The main author of the letter, Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, argued for an avenue to apprehend MS13 and ISIS-operatives within the state. Such persons are able to blend in with farm workers.

 

With the election so close, the only way grassroots organizations have to change things is to go door-to-door, canvassing neighborhoods; educating and inspiring the get-out-the-vote effort. To say the issue is charged is an understatement, especially due to the national conversation. Distrust is great. A knock at the door can be friend or foe.

 

“Due to the polarization of political beliefs, the ground work feels like walking on egg shells,” de la Torre said.

 

Right now, “You have to be careful with not saying certain terms that carry a strong stigma such as ‘sanctuary’. For some, this word is a light of hope and protection. For others, it means chaos and a lack of control. All in all, I focus on making sure everyone feels safe, respected and listened to regardless of where they stand politically because this way, we are able to have a constructive conversation where we learn another perspective and can agree or agree to disagree.”

 

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It takes a certain flare of genius to accomplish the mission Unite Oregon gave itself. De la Torre is using only the best ideas to narrow the odds against them. The progressive voice of Oregon is needed. Towards that end, special literature was commissioned

 

“Erica Ledesma, who is part of Unite Oregon’s Leadership Council and an impeccable local artist, agreed to create a drawing for an attractive and concise informational sheet I was working on that urges a NO vote on Measure 105 this November. We brainstormed the messaging we wanted the image to depict and decided that the time is overdue to reclaim the American flag. The flag should represent ALL members of this nation, not just those born here nor just for those who are patriotic. As a Mexican American, I began to resent this country for what it does to people like my parents, who left everything they knew behind to give their kids a chance for social mobility and for their dreams to come true regardless of social status. It clicked, though, when I was in Salem this year for the May Day rally and witnessed immigrants hugging themselves with an American flag, that they care for and appreciate what this country has done for them, and I should too. I need to give credit to where it’s due and remember that the flag represents The People, not just the government or the elite. The value in cultivating that love for America allows me to return that love back to the place I know as Home.”

If you wish to assist, please contact Alessandra de la Torre at alessandra@uniteoregon.org

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Words by Kokayi Nosakhere

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