Sanctuary or inclusivity: What should we call it?
Updated: Apr 8, 2018
Part 2: A fighter’s tale, Latino Millennials take on the Sanctuary City battle.
Juan Rogel found his way to North Portland at the age of 17. At that time he was a foreigner in his own land. Juan, who was born in the U.S., had lived his formative years in Mexico. When he legally re-entered to the U.S., he left behind his childhood memories in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Upon returning to his country of birth he discovered the challenge of inexperience, inexperience with the neighborhood, culture, and the language. In order to help him find a sense of place and community, Juan turned to the two things he knew best: boxing & politics. He had trained in boxing since the age of 8 in Acapulco, Mexico and, in Guerrero, politics are a daily discussion.
Within two years of arriving in Portland, Juan began his career as an amateur boxer and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He combined his love of boxing with his passion for youth outreach and activism. Juan shares, “[C]ommitment to civic duties and community activism is what I’ve always [promoted].”
That combination of passion and experience led to the founding of Puro Corazon, a boxing program meant to help at-risk youth find therapy through boxing and shape them as young adults. “It wasn’t just about athletics, it was about using boxing to help them find their true talents and passion.”
Let the race begin | The 2016 Presidential Primary
Juan never let go of his passion outside of the ring either — politics. Juan had been following would-be presidential primary contenders, including Vice President Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. It should be no surprise. Juan admits that he follows politicians as if they were ‘football or basketball stars.’ According to Juan, “[I’d] always followed campaigns on an amateur level…I told myself that if Elizabeth Warren runs for president I’m going on board her campaign.” After she decided not to run, he found appreciation for the the platform proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and joined his campaign as a volunteer.
In the spring of 2016, a few months into Sen. Sanders bid for the Democratic Nomination, Juan observed that many voters were just learning of Sanders’ agenda. As candidate Sanders’ profile and image grew, Juan saw the demand for volunteers and campaign staff swell. To his dismay, very few Latinos were involved. There were a handful of ardent supporters but overall very few Latinos were reaching out to other Latino voters in Portland.
Looking back at the grassroots movement for Bernie, Juan regrets the lack of Latino participation: “[T]he Latino community was the last community to hear the message of who Bernie Sanders was.”
A new platform for Latino Millennials
“If you learn from a loss, you have not lost.” — Austin O’Malley
Bernie Sanders lost the democratic ticket. However, in response to the lack of Latino civic and political participation which Juan perceived through the primary campaign, a new organization was formed: Milenio, with Juan Rogel it’s Executive Director. He explains that the organization was founded in 2016 to kick start the growth of Latino Millennials ready to engage and help shape Portland’s civic and political landscape. The volunteer organization functions differently than others. Instead of offering services, they offer guidance to volunteers taking on a host of community based activities. Juan summarizes that,
“[W]e are not just providing services, or trying to get in well with political leaders. We are more interested in creating and fostering leaders.”
Leadership development comes in many forms. And for many residents of marginalized communities across Portland, actions speak louder than words. Thus, shortly after the presidential election was decided in November, Milenio decided that taking action was necessary. Prior to the increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detentions, while many in the Portland community were still in disbelief over the election outcome, Milenio demonstrated against the president-elect and his hateful rhetoric. It’s members did so peacefully by joining hands around Portland City Hall. Juan shares, “in signaling [racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and hate & bias] as issues long before [Trump’s election] occurred, we have gained the confidence of the community.”
Milenio hopes to build on that confidence through continued coordinated efforts and leadership development workshops. As Milenio’s Executive Director, Juan is excited for the organization’s direction and shares that Milenio has been welcomed by the Latino Community, “they are supportive of young Latino Millennials…talking about political issues that affect us.”
A hot button issue currently affecting Latinos in communities across Oregon is the enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws. From Ontario on the state’s eastern border, to the news source proclaimed ‘Ghost Town’ of Woodburn in the Willamette Valley, ICE activity has increased dramatically.
The Push for Sanctuary
In a country where - according to the Migration Policy Institute fact sheet - more than 5.1 million children in the U.S. (under age 18) live with at least one immigrant parent; many Latino millennials will befriend, wed, or work with someone who immigrated to the U.S. illegally and who are currently at-risk of deportation. Households which tightrope this precarious position are commonly referred to as ‘mixed status’ families.
Francisco López, of Voz Hispana Cambio Communitario (a Milenio community partner) states that in Portland, despite the talk of sanctuary, ICE is not backing down. Francisco sees ICE in the Portland Metro area conducting raids as if “they were in the patio of their own house…with the cooperation of the police and the sheriff.” Furthermore, Francisco highlights that in the Portland area alone, from January 22nd through April 31st, ICE detained more than 400 people (an average of 4–5 detainees in ICE custody per day).
“What does this tell us?” asks Francisco, pausing briefly to then answer his own question, “[ICE] is not playing around.”
The push for safe spaces for immigrant families highlight the desire of some residents who seek assurance from their city elected officials that municipal resources do not go toward collaboration with Federal Immigration Enforcement. However, the push for Sanctuary has also created a backlash in these same cities. Cities with a less-than-stellar history of welcoming immigrants in a state which has an even more egregious track record.
Juan Rogel points out that Milenio is not the only Oregon organization promoting the adoption of ordinances which seek to protect undocumented Oregonians. There are other players. Including reputable and well established non-profit organizations that are mobilizing citizens into similar efforts and have wins under their belt. Inclusivity Resolutions have passed in various cities including the aforementioned ‘ghost town’ of Woodburn. However, Milenio, while a relative newcomer in Portland’s political scene, assures that they’ve distinguished themselves from the pack. The fact that they have not strayed from the ‘sanctuary’ language as the means to pass what has now become a mostly symbolic gesture is one distinguishable trait.
Some immigration rights advocates have decided to support the renaming of the same basic concept, from sanctuary to inclusivity, while others haven’t. Hence, two different names for the same basic principles of protection for immigrants. Mr. López shares his take on the appeal of inclusivity resolutions:
“The alternative to the sanctuary city, some say, is [to] propos[e] ‘Inclusivity Resolutions’…there are some city councils who will not declare sanctuary.[S]ome [proponents] call it ‘Inclusivity Resolution’ as a way to give space to liberals and conservatives to vote for something that is not known as a sanctuary.”
The answer to why some immigrant’s rights advocates propose, as a strategic decision, the inclusivity (aka inclusive city) resolution while others won’t, can vary. And the answer to why some citizens may respond better to inclusivity as opposed to sanctuary is not a scientific one.
That stated, Milenio and Voz Hispana Cambio Communitario believe that their collective efforts (which include marching on Hillsboro streets and publicly challenging Mayor Steve Callaway’s stance) played a significant role in the Sanctuary City Resolution’s passage in Hillsboro; thereby, demonstrating a commitment to all of the city’s residents while defying President Trump’s Federal immigration agenda, locally.
Next Gen Politicians Wanted
Looking forward, Milenio seeks to expand its reach in Portland’s Latino community. Ultimately, the vision includes preparing Latino candidates to run for elected seats at the local, county, and state level.
Juan Rogel looks back on his days as an amateur boxer full of drive and determination, which he still carries as he advocates for tangible, not just symbolic, protections for the undocumented among us. He also hopes that in the future Milenio will be viewed as the hub where many young aspiring Latino elected officials ‘cut their teeth’ in politics and learned the political acumen needed to win elections.
Fighting for the needs of the Latino community is what Milenio is all about. And in the process, establishment politics will be in the cross-hairs. Juan shares, “Milenio, from the start, was protesting the elitism of the established political class.” He continues by asserting his view that “politics is not just for those handpicked by the establishment …anybody should have access to politics.”