Intercultural organization endorses three bills

by Melanie Davis
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Taj Suleyman and Ethan Krow
Richard Jones El Hispanic News Writer Salem, OR — The last week of February more than 20 Oregon legislators received visits in their Capitol offices from supporters of three bills that would affect immigrants. The coordinated push came from the Center for Intercultural Organizing, an immigrant action group based in North Portland. The most ambitious of the three bills — SB 655 — would create a Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Based on two existing commissions — the Commission on Black Affairs and the Commission on Hispanic Affairs — the proposed committee would, according to a CIO brochure, “study how immigrants and refugees interact with the state, business, and non-profits here in Oregon.†A second bill — SB 654, “Racial Impact Statements†— would allow lawmakers to ask for a racial impact study to determine how any new law pertaining to child welfare or criminal justice would affect different ethnicities. The third bill — SB 97 — would ensure that medical professionals receive ongoing cultural competency training. “Cultural Competency Education,†the brochure explains, “is about ensuring that Oregon’s medical system is well-equipped to deal with an increasingly diverse population.†Different cultures have different standards of what procedures are permissible. For example, one Middle-Eastern woman said that the thought of being touched by a male doctor was highly disturbing. Promoters of SB 655 say “no state agency looks at the impact of policies on immigrants and refugees … .†They want to ensure “the legislature and the governor have the tools to tackle the issues, without breaking the bank.†“Racial impact statements,†supporters of SB 654 say, will “give the state an opportunity to frankly assess how policy decisions impact Oregon’s communities of color, immigrants, and refugees.†A group of some 30 supporters, all wearing yellow T-shirts with CIO logos, stopped by the offices of about two-dozen representatives and senators on Feb. 22. When possible, they gave a short summary of the virtues of their bills. A noontime rally on the Capitol steps heard several orators, including guest speakers Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and CAUSA leader Francisco López. The Center for Intercultural Organizing can be reached at 503-287-4117. The group’s website is at


Photo Richard Jones, El Hispanic News Taj Suleyman (left) and Ethan Krow headed up a team contacting legislators in their Capitol offices. The Center for Intercultural Organizing sponsored three bills that would help Oregon's immigrant population.