Community Needs Assessment Report 2011

In 2000, 3,645 Hispanics accounted for 4.7% of the population of Benton County. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the Latino population in the county grew 50% between 2000 and 2010, with 74% of the 5,467 Latinos in the county living in Corvallis. According to the Corvallis Community Action Agency, the median household income in Benton County in 2000 was $41,897, slightly below the national and state levels. The median household income for Hispanics was just $27,857, 17% lower than the national median income for Hispanic households and 33% lower than the Benton County median
household income.
In Oregon, Latinos are disproportionately impacted by the burden of chronic disease and other poor health conditions. Available state and county level data show that Hispanics in Oregon are five times more likely to die prematurely than white, non-Hispanic Oregonians. The leading causes of death in Benton County among Hispanics/Latinos are heart disease and cancer…

Want to know more? Download the entire Community Needs Assessment Report of June 2011.


Comments on Immigration by Erlinda Gonzales-Berry

I realize that at this summit we are interested in looking to the future to create a viable agenda for our communities. However, I believe strongly that the past informs the present as well as the future, because folks it is a truism que el mundo da vuelta.

And when it comes to Mexican immigrants el mundo definitivamente da vuelta. The truth of the matter is that U.S. immigration policy vis-à-vis Mexico has always been ambivalent and ad-hoc. Let me give you a few examples.

In 1917 when the U.S. introduced its first literacy and head tax requirement for immigrants,  U.S. agriculturalists —a powerful lobby indeed–got the government to exclude Mexican farm workers from these provisions enabling some eighty thousand workers to be admitted as special cases. The use of undocumented Mexican workers as scabs during labor strikes was also a repeated practice. During the round-up and mop-ups of Operation Wetback in the 1950s it was not uncommon for the INS to take arrested “illegal” workers to the border, deliver them to the Department of Labor, the entity that  managed the authorized Bracero program, which immediately processed them, now as “legal” braceros and send them back to the fields where they were originally apprehended as “illegal” workers.

And at this very moment, the ambivalent attitude toward Mexican migrant labor is equally visible when this country  says to Mexican immigrants: “Hey, ya’ll, come on over we’ve got plenty of jobs for you”, and at the same time says,  “But while you’re here, we’re going to make your lives as miserable as we can.” You can’t be much more ambivalent than that.  Here in Oregon, our leaders did precisely that by rescinding driver’s licenses for immigrant workers.

Recently on an internet post someone stated that he was well aware of the contributions of Mexican to Oregon, but that, nonetheless, they have broken the law by coming here illegally. To that gentleman, and to all Americans who use this argument as a smokescreen for their ambivalence and their thinly veiled racism, I want to say the following: The problem with your argument is that the law you are talking about is an inadequate law; it is a dishonest law; it is an unjust law.

Folks, the truth is that the labor needs of this country are out of sink with our immigration policies. We need hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to make our economy work, yet we are unwilling to make provisions for those workers to come here legally. Instead we create immigration policies that turn them into criminals—and then we exploit them. To put it more succinctly we do not provide enough visas to accommodate the number of workers required as the result of our economic integration platforms, and our free trade agreements. If this country is to create adequate and just immigration policies, it needs to address that failure in our system. It can begin by authorizing every worker that is here without papers, to be here, and while they are here our laws and our social conscience must guarantee them their full human rights.

Book Review: Mexicanos in Oregon

The states largest newspaper, The Oregonian, wrote a book review on Mexicanos in Oregon: Their Stories, Their Lives, a book I co-authored with Professor Marcela Mendoza. They write, “The current debate about immigration from Mexico is nothing new. It dates back more than 150 years, to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. At the end of the Mexican-American War, the United States acquired roughly half of Mexico’s northern territory, along with the people living there. That acquisition set in motion a complicated relationship the two countries and their people live with today. In Oregon, the Mexicano experience has been less discriminatory than in some other parts of the country.Mexicanos in Oregon: Their Stories, Their Lives seeks to shed light on all facets of that experience. Authors Erlinda V. Gonzales-Berry and Marcela Mendoza mix individual interviews with academic research to show why migrants have come to Oregon and how they have adapted and contributed to the cultural life of the state.” [Click Here to Read the Full Oregonian Article]






 Fighting Obesity Epidemic One Family at a Time

This post by The Oregonian highlights how Westside Community Church and a host of partners in Benton County are helping educate one family at a time on the importance of bringing back gardening all while helping fight obesity epidemic disproportionately affecting Benton County Latino families. As the article highlights, the Latino population in Benton and Linn counties has increased steadily in the past two decades. U.S. Census figures show that during the 1990s, Benton County had only 1,735 Latinos and Linn County had 2,177. But over the next 17 years, in both counties, the number of Latinos has nearly tripled. According to the 2007 American Community Survey, Benton County has a Latino population of 4,800, and Linn County of 6,700 — in both counties, Latinos make up 6 percent of the total population. Click Here to Read the Full Oregonian Article.