Unite Oregon is a membership organization led by people of color, immigrants and refugees, rural communities, and people experiencing poverty. We work across Oregon to build a unified intercultural movement for justice.
Grounded in the belief that organizing people who are suffering oppression has the greatest potential to affect the root causes of economic, political and social injustice, we involve our members in all aspects of program development and implementation. We work on issues identified by our communities in order to build a fairer, more just, and more equitable Oregon.
Community Development and Prosperity
Unite Oregon has launched an ambitious economic justice program to build and retain wealth for systemically and institutionally excluded communities - immigrants, refugees, Black and Indigenous communities, and People of Color broadly. The Community Development and Economic Prosperity Program seeks to develop and pilot an economic ecosystem that generates wealth, creates assets, helps community entrepreneurs develop businesses, and reinvest resources to ensure sustainability and stability for our communities. As part of this initiative, Unite Oregon is working to collaboratively develop a community-based, community-centered strategy for equitable development in East Portland and the Southwest Corridor.
Oregon recently experienced a catastrophic example of the current and worsening climate crisis. Fueled by drought and extreme weather, the wildfires raging through Oregon have destroyed homes and livelihoods, polluted our air, and amplified the historic and present day inequities experienced by vulnerable Oregonians (lower income, rural and BIPOC communities). Unless drastic, meaningful and effective action is taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, we will see further disparities within frontline and vulnerable communities as they continue to face increased displacement, poor health indicators and limited economic opportunities due to the negative impacts of a warming planet.
Unite Oregon believes both building climate resilience and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are critical to address climate injustice. We demand that decision makers recognize that the communities we represent are disproportionately bearing the negative effects of climate change despite having caused little of the problem. We demand that those responsible for causing climate change, including polluting corporations as well as state agencies that promoted policies and practices causing high greenhouse gas emissions be held responsible and pay for adaptation strategies that help low income and BIPOC Oregonians cope with climate change caused impacts.
- Unite Oregon is fighting to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis on our communities and implement policies to address the causes of climate change.
- East Portland Community Garden: Our PILOT leadership development cohort will launch a community garden project in East Portland to promote food sovereignty, retain indigenous sustainability practices, and provide entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants/refugees to grow, produce, and sell food to generate income.
- Emergency Preparedness & Wellness: In 2020, our communities were hit hard by the wildfires. Many did not receive alerts notifying them of the fires & were forced to flee their homes with no notice. Often, our communities do not have access to aid programs due to their immigration status or distrust of institutions based on experiences of racism. With our partners Beyond Toxics, our Rogue Valley chapter is supporting community members to prepare for coming climate disasters. This project is community-led/created to address urgent community needs - namely, the need for emergency preparedness and growing concern over the negative health impacts from wildfires.
- Clackamas climate justice leaders: This year, we launched a leadership development program that will build immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC capacity to inform decisions across Metro’s garbage and recycling system. The program will focus on empowering, educating, and activating historically marginalized communities in Clackamas County through knowledge and skill-building in the garbage and recycling sector.
Home should be our safest space - a place that can serve as a core foundation of our health and where our families can thrive. Increasingly, the quality and stability of our housing is determined not only by our economic circumstances, but by our race, ethnicity, and immigration status. The current housing crisis impacts all Oregonians, but due to systemic barriers, some communities are impacted more than others.
For immigrants, refugees, and people of color, additional challenges include discriminatory rental practices, linguistic and cultural barriers, high mobility, lower levels of trust in public agencies, and under-reporting of poor conditions. For BIPOC and rural communities, systemic barriers emerge not only from profit-driven development, but also from poor housing placement, substandard farmworker housing, and regressive housing policy.
Unite Oregon is working to address housing equity issues through:
- Popular education curriculum development—Creating multilingual popular education workshops that build upon renters’ experience and innate knowledge of affordable housing challenges;
- Leadership development—Infusing our current structured leadership development programs with curricula designed to identify and develop multi-ethnic affordable housing leaders;
- Community-based research—Producing community based research documenting the problem and outlining community-validated solutions;
- Direct Service--providing emergency financial assistance to IR-BIPOC communities impacted by the pandemic and the end of the eviction moratorium and connect them to leadership development, organizing, and advocacy opportunities
- Issue campaigns and large scale mobilization—Organizing tenants around affordable housing issue campaigns, developing strategy, identifying targets, and approaches to engage and mobilize those most impacted by policies to advocate for change.
- Policy Advocacy: In 2021, we helped pass Senate Bill 282, the Tenant COVID Recovery Act, protecting tenants beyond the recently ended pause on evictions and ensuring that families living in culturally relevant living conditions are protected from evictions.
- Emergency assistance: Our outreach team has ensured that Nepalese, Karen, Burmese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Somali, Arabic, Thai-speaking communities all have access to emergency financial support.
- Preventing evictions in Washington County: In partnership with the Community Action Team and Hillsboro Oregon Law center, we are empowering tenants and supporting immigrant, refugee and BIPOC community members that have eviction cases filed against them now that the moratorium on evictions has ended. In its first month, our partnership was successful at preventing 95% of evictions for non-payment of rent.
- Building leaders: In addition to multilingual renters’ rights workshops, we are hosting two housing leadership development building the capacity of community members to participate in the decision-making of local housing issues and empower community members to help shape more housing options in their neighborhoods
To support our housing work, donate to our Housing Fund.
Defund the Police
We need investment in the well-being of our communities, not in unaccountable police departments. We demand that cities redirect police budgets toward programs that reimagine community safety from the ground up and limit our communities’ contact with the police. And as we learn and build new ways of building safety, we will continue to push towards an eventual full defunding of the police. In the summer of 2020, we partnered with Imagine Black and generated emails from more than 38,000 community members to the Portland City Council to echo our demands around defunding police, as well as thousands of direct phone calls to City Council offices; testimony from over 700 people almost unanimously echoed these demands, as well, resulting in a total of $15 million in cuts from the Portland Police Bureau budget.
Community-Centered Portland Police Association Contract
Beginning in 2021, the City of Portland started its current round of negotiations with the Portland Police Association over the labor contract covering sworn police officers. Amid a historic uprising against police brutality in the streets of Portland and across the country, we, along with dozens of other organizations, call upon the City to keep the needs of grassroots Portlanders at the center of the bargaining process.
Portland Out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force
Before 2005, the City of Portland was an active participant in the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), collaborations between local law enforcement, the FBI, ICE, and other federal law enforcement agencies. Joint Terrorism Task Forces were created to investigate "terrorism," but in practice have been used to crack down on people exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech or religion. Instead of preventing terrorism, the task forces are instead used to surveil and harass Muslims, people of color and others who speak out against government policies.
In 2005, Portland became the first city in the US to withdraw from participation in our local JTTF, thanks to the hard work of activists and organizations like Unite Oregon. Unfortunately, in 2015, Portland City Council voted to rejoin the Task Force, assigning Portland Police officers to work with the FBI and ICE on a full-time basis. But the fundamental issues in this debate never changed. In early 2019, Unite Oregon and our partners worked with Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to, once again, withdraw Portland from the JTTF. And on February 13th, Portland City Council voted to do just that. Now that the City has voted to withdraw from the JTTF, we'll be tracking how that withdrawal is implemented, and ensure that Portland remains OUT of the JTTF!
In 2015, after a multi-year campaign, Unite Oregon and our partners won passage of a landmark bill banning profiling by law enforcement in Oregon (HB 2002, the End Profiling Act). Subsequently, the Oregon Attorney General established the Work Group on the Prevention of Profiling by Law Enforcement, a task force charged with recommendations for implementation. As a member of this task force and a leader on the issue, Unite Oregon passed House Bill 2355, the End Profiling Act, which contained two changes that are pivotal to the success of the profiling ban: (1) robust collection of data on police stops, complaints, and complaint outcomes, and (2) development of an accountability structure that empowers the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Department of Justice to examine the data for patterns or practices of profiling and push for remediation by local law enforcement bodies.
Access to Education
BUILD College Bound Families
Building Undergraduates through Inclusive Leadership Development
In 2015, Unite Oregon began partnering with Portland Public Schools to design, create, and implement BUILD, a program that serves 3,000 families with students in 7th/8th and 10th/11th graders in Jefferson, Madison, and Roosevelt clusters. Through BUILD, Unite Oregon provides parent programming on leadership development, issue organizing, and mobilizing. Through this collaborative approach the program is addressing systemic barriers to educational attainment for many students of color.
Youth-Led Involvement through Engagement and Leadership Development
YIELD is a new program delivered in partnership with Portland Public School’s Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) department. YIELD is a 9-month leadership development program serving 6th, 7th and 8th grade students at Caesar Chavez, Ockley-Green, and Harrison Park middle schools. Through YIELD, Unite Oregon provides students with workshops and activities centered on leadership development, organizing, advocacy, and public speaking in order to equip students with the necessary skills to collectively address educational inequalities they face within their schools. In its first year, YIELD students began gathering data for a student-led campaign against disparate discipline. YIELD student will learn continue to campaign against issues of disparate discipline, gaining the necessary skills to organize within their schools and communities.
Treatment and Recovery
In 2020, Unite Oregon worked with partners across the state to pass Measure 110, Oregon's Drug Treatment and Recovery Act, which provided a pathway to addiction recovery by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, establishing addiction recovery centers across Oregon, and increasing the availability of treatment. Unite Oregon and the Health Justice Recovery Alliance are now partnering for the implementation process of this innovative new law. Together we are committed to ensuring that everyone has equitable access to the healing services they need in their recovery journey and that we are centering the folks most harmed by the war on drugs.
Immigrant & Refugee Rights
Founded by Portland-area immigrants and refugees, the Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) was originally established to combat widespread anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11. On September 8, 2002, authorities arrested a well-known Portland imam at the airport, Sheik Mohamed Kariye, falsely claiming his brother’s luggage contained traces of TNT. CIO’s founders organized a multicultural march and protest outside the federal building in Portland. Since then, Unite Oregon has engaged thousands of community members from diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds to advocate for our shared mutual interest.
- In 2021, we helped establish Oregon’s first Office of Immigrant & Refugee Advancement by passing Senate Bill 778.
- In 2019, Oregon became the third state in the county that funds resettlement programs after we passed House Bill 2508, which provided $2 million in state funds for extended services for up to 1,800 refugees. The funding provided critical stop- gap funding to refugee resettlement organizations who were being threatened to shut down due the Trump Administration’s racist agenda. Because of our work, we know that refugees resettling in Oregon will continue to get key critical services.
- We are convening a Black/ Black Immigrant & Refugee grassroots policy table comprised 100% Black-led and Black Immigrant and Refugee organizations looking to build power and keep their organizations connected to the immediate and long-term needs of the Black community. Our goal is to engage in policy and campaign spaces to amplify and champion issues important to Oregon’s Black/Black Immigrant & Refugee communities.