It’s an exciting year for social justice in Oregon! Because of your support, MRG’s grantees are leading the fight and organizing in cities and towns across the state. Whether for environmental protection, immigrant rights, or better health care, you’ll find amazing work taking place this spring. Here’s a look at a few grantee campaigns:
Cultural Competency in Health Care
It’s estimated that 650,000 Oregonians are uninsured and a disproportionate number are immigrants and people of color. As the Affordable Care Act becomes implemented in coming years and more people navigate a shifting healthcare system, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is building cultural competency and accessibility into health care reform.
“Access to health care is one of the biggest contributors to poor health outcomes in communities of color,” says APANO Executive Director, Joseph Santos-Lyons. “Our work for cultural competency in health care highlights the inequities people face in Oregon. It will improve communication between doctors and patients and the overall quality of care.”
Because language barriers and cultural understanding impact patients’ ability to build strong relationships with healthcare providers, APANO is empowering members to advocate for better care through HB 2611, which requires health providers in Oregon to train staff in cultural competency. APANO is training bilingual organizers to better reach diverse communities and will continue to build awareness and hold conversations with representatives at the state capitol in April.
March 21st marked a huge victory in the fight for immigrant rights in Oregon: supporters from across the state succeeded in pushing the legislature to pass Tuition Equity legislation, which will now grant in-state tuition for undocumented students who have graduated from high school in Oregon and meet other criteria.
“This is such a relief for undocumented youth, who have had to choose between work and education,” says Vicky Falcon-Vasquez, coordinator for Latinos Unidos Siempre (LUS) in Salem. “Many have to work at jobs for long hours at night, on weekends, and in the summer, putting their academic performance at risk to pay for extra tuition fees.”
George L., a student LUS member, is one of many Oregon youths who are celebrating: “My dream is to enroll in a university and become an art teacher. I hope I can show people in my community that undocumented immigrants are not the monsters the media has portrayed us to be.”
Looking ahead, LUS will increase its organizing for broader immigration reform. “We will be pushing harder for the DREAM act (a proposal to provide a pathway to citizenship for eligible youth),” says Vicky. “So many people are on board—I feel that we’re finally going to get there.”
Safe Public Places Act/ Pesticide Reform
Beyond Toxics led a study that found hundreds of taxpayer-funded projects in Oregon that are using dangerous (and sometimes, cancer-causing) pesticides on state-owned parks, buildings, and other public areas. They joined with legislators and other environmental groups to push for the State Integrated Pest Management bill (HB 3364), also known as the Safe Public Places Act.
The bill requires the State to manage insects and weeds on state-owned property with the least toxic methods first, and use pesticides only when necessary to finish the job. “We need to keep our children safe from exposure in our state parks and public buildings,” says Lisa Arkin, Executive Director of Beyond Toxics.
On March 8th, dozens of supporters spoke with legislators in Salem and shared personal stories about the effects of state pesticide use, including a recent incident that contaminated drinking water in Klamath County. Beyond Toxics will continue to push for HB 3364 throughout the legislative session. “It upsets chemical lobby supporters in the Capitol,” says Lisa. “That’s why it’s important to have the support of MRG, our members, and the growing public interest in a healthier Oregon.”