Voto Latino Campus Chapters Activate and Advocate for Latinx Community
By: Sara Gomez — Voto Latino Linfield College Campus Chapter Leader
On November 7, 2016, I flew across the country from New York to McMinnville, Oregon, a small town about an hour southwest of Portland. As I peered out my window, I looked down at the twinkling stretches of land and wondered what the world would look like come November 8. I woke up the next day at Linfield College, a small private liberal arts college where I’m currently a senior. As an immigrant and as a Latina, my world was shaken with the election of Donald Trump. That night I went to bed feeling a little bit browner and with a deep understanding that hard times were ahead not only for myself, but for my Latinx community.
I now find myself in my last semester of college fighting to support my Latinx community against deportation, hate crimes, and a sense of hopelessness. Despite the fact that I live in Oregon — the land of Portland, brewpubs, and progressive policies — it has still been a struggle. A few days after Trump’s inauguration, Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order banning discrimination against undocumented immigrants and prohibiting state agencies from aiding federal immigration officials to find or arrest undocumented immigrants. Yet behind these moments of light lies Oregon’s dark history of racism and exclusion.
When Oregon became a state in 1859 within its constitution was a clear mandate stating that black people could not live or move to the state. This wasn’t removed from the constitution until 1926. To make matters worse, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) has a long history of thriving in Oregon and still has a presence today.
But over time, Oregon has steadily grown more diverse. The Latinx population is increasing at a faster rate than the national average and Oregon is home to 400,000 undocumented immigrants. I chose to start a Voto Latino chapter on my campus because we are at a crucial point in the movement to empower and engage the Latinx population in Oregon. The median age of the Latinx population in Oregon is 24 years old.
The young Latinx community gives me hope for the future of Oregon. Amidst immigration raids and the detention of Portland DACA-eligible individuals, I have witnessed the will to organize, and to echarle pa’lante — to keep going.
The Voto Latino chapter at Linfield provides a platform to activate our student body and to bring awareness to issues that are important to our community. We strive to provide a safe space for engaging dialogue where all questions are accepted without judgement and information is provided from trusted sources. Our VL chapter recently partnered with the Political Science department at Linfield host a Pizza & Politics event, where we covered topics ranging from the ongoing refugee crisis to sanctuary cities to DACA and the citizenship process.
Our event brought together students from different backgrounds and political identities to do what our country so desperately needs to do; ask difficult questions, listen and begin to understand one another.
In the upcoming year, our Voto Latino chapter hopes to continue this important work by growing our chapter in a partnership with local high schools to register voters, reach out to local elected officials and cultivate a culture of active citizenship and we encourage other colleges to launch their own chapters as well.
Voto Latino will be uplifting stories of the first 100 days of the new administration and what we can all do to continue empowering our communities and creating positive change.