By Jess George
North Carolina and Oregon may be over 2,000 miles away — some say both geographically and culturally — but in the movement for immigrant rights we are deeply connected. The largest immigrant rights organizations in those states — Causa Oregon (OR) and the Latin American Coalition (NC) — have developed a strong relationship of mentoring and collaboration that is proving mutually beneficial.
In mid-February — enticed by the intoxicating mixture of 65 degree weather, barbeque and social justice work — Executive Director of Causa Oregon, Francisco Lopez, paid a visit to North Carolina to bring some of Causa’s secrets of success to the Southeast.
For the Latin American Coalition, the timing of the visit was strategic. Progressive issues have been under intense attack in North Carolina in recent months. The Coalition survived a tough state legislative session, defeating 19 out of 20 explicitly anti-immigrant bills. While proud of this accomplishment, we wanted start 2012 with a new focus: to move past defensive strategy and create true immigrant power-building in our state. We looked to our sister agencies leading the movement nationally for bold ideas and fresh perspectives. Causa Oregon stood out as an organization that embodied a model of community organizing and leadership development aligned with our values and culture.
Over the course of four days, Francisco Lopez worked closely with the Coalition and our partners to address some of the greatest challenges and opportunities the movement is facing in North Carolina. In Charlotte, Francisco provided a dynamic training for Coalition staff and other community activists on Causa’s organizing and leadership development model. He traveled to Raleigh, meeting immigrant rights activists from across the state to share Causa’s legislative strategy and discuss Oregon’s success in building alliances between the immigrant and LGBTQ movements. Perhaps the highlight of the visit was a series of community forums hosted for the region’s Central American community, discussing the nationwide campaign for permanent residency for the approximately 300,000 Central Americans under Temporary Protection Status.
This visit is just the beginning a partnership between our organizations and our states. The Latin American Coalition is planning to send several of our staff to Oregon this summer to participate in Causa’s National Leadership Development Training. Despite the political, cultural and physical distance between our two states, we remain inspired by the great work of Causa Oregon. We are deeply appreciative of the support that Causa has shown us and intend to return this generosity with more than just barbeque and hushpuppies.