Reps. Schrader and Alonso Leon address Woodburn residents at Town Hall
By Julia Comnes, Woodburn Independent
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, and state Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon, D-Woodburn, responded to questions about immigration, health care, and the economy at a Woodburn town hall meeting on Saturday, which was attended by about 100 people.
It was the third town hall meeting Schrader had held over the past couple of weeks, previously holding ones in Clackamas and Salem in late February.
Many of the questions were focused on immigration and deportation, especially in light of recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests in Woodburn.
"With the new executive order, pretty much everybody who's in this country that's undocumented is at risk," Schrader said.
Schrader said he had recently spoken to ICE leadership, who said there's no new initiative to increase enforcement. But Schrader said that given the current climate, it's especially important to be prepared for interactions with ICE.
"I think with that new era of fear and, unfortunately, invasiveness, in my opinion, from the federal government, you should be very aware of your rights, whether you're undocumented or a citizen in this country in terms of getting yourself representation," Schrader said.
Alonso Leon, recognized as the first immigrant Latina to serve in the Oregon House of Representatives, said the issue of immigration is especially personal for her.
"My grandfather died in Mexico in January. And while members of my family are documented, they have green cards, they were afraid to go home to my grandfather's funeral. That is not OK," she said. "This is not just impacting our families in this community. It's impacting families all over the country. We should not live in fear."
And Woodburn Mayor Kathy Figley, who was moderating the town hall meeting, spoke briefly about immigration as well.
"I feel resisting ICE is the moral equivalent of a hundred and some years ago resisting the Fugitive Slave Act," Figley said, referring to an 1850 federal law that required all escaped slaves, if captured, to be returned to their masters.
Audience members also asked about the economy and jobs. Both Schrader and Alonso Leon highlighted their efforts to create job opportunities in the region.
"We have great resources. Our agriculture, our forestry and our natural resource industries in our state could be put to great use," said Schrader. He said he is working to increase job opportunities in those sectors.
Alonso Leon highlighted her work to better train Oregon employees for the jobs that are available.
"Career and technical education is very important to me," Alonso Leon said. "I want to make sure the education community knows exactly what kind of skills you need to prepare our students so they can get those jobs (that are available)."
And, some audience members asked how to best stay politically active during the current administration.
"It doesn't hurt to show up to these types of meetings or to write Teresa or I," Schrader said. "There are lots of parts to this country (that are) laboring under the fake news mantra, or alternative facts. It gets to be a daunting task fighting back all the time. And you guys are our support network."