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City Club of Eugene: A State of Immigrants: A New Look at The Immigrant Experience in Oregon

Program Date: Oct. 15, 2021

Air Date: Oct. 18, 2021

From The City Club of Eugene:

Since 1990, the population of foreign-born Oregon residents has grown 42%, to a current level of almost 10%, less than the national average of about 14%. Although we often call ourselves a nation of immigrants, our immigration policies seem to serve neither the established communities nor the newcomers very well. Federal efforts to adopt better policies have been derailed in recent years, leaving state governments and other institutions to work on this as a do-it-yourself project. Self-interest drives them.

Immigrants have a regenerative impact on the receiving community. They bring their talents, their energy, their perspectives, their culture, and their fresh appreciation of our values and resources.  Although some start off in need of support, they quickly join the mainstream. Participation in the workforce, for those 16 and older, is about the same as other Americans’ (about 66%), as is the number who remain in poverty (about 15%). Offering them welcome and pathways for integrating into the social and economic life of their new hometowns ensures mutual benefits.

In 2021, a team of researchers sponsored by the UO Labor Education and Research Center revisited a study done by LERC in 2008 to determine how much has changed for immigrants in Oregon since then. Their report examines public policies and community level strategies aimed at helping immigrants and refugees in Oregon achieve social, civic, and economic integration in arenas such as education, health, employment, the arts, and political and civic participation.  In this program, four authors of the 2021 report will explain what they learned.


Moderator – Robert Bussel has been the director of the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center since 2002 and is the editor of the report “A State of Immigrants,” released in September 2021. He edited the 2008 report on the same topic. Bob is also a professor of history at the University of Oregon, where he teaches courses on social movements, labor and the working class, immigration, and the history of sports.  He worked with the United Farm Workers and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union before becoming a labor educator 25 years ago. He earned an MA in labor education from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in history from Cornell University.

Jóse W. Meléndez is Assistant Professor of Planning for Engaging Diverse Communities at the University of Oregon’s School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management and affiliated faculty for Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies. His research centers on the design of participatory and decision-making processes. Specifically, he focuses on how these processes can be redesigned to include historically underrepresented voices and foster meaningful decision making that results in more equitable outcomes. He examines language usage and tools, modes of participation, and the inclusion of new participants to learn how these processes impact one another and influence process and policy outcomes. His goal is to help practitioners address and resolve contradictions and tensions they face in administering public programs.

Lisha Shrestha is the executive director of Division Midway Alliance, a Portland place-based nonprofit with the mission of creating social resiliency and economic prosperity for residents and businesses. Midway is an East Portland neighborhood situated along Division Street roughly “midway” between the Willamette River in downtown Portland and the city of Gresham; it is one of the two majority-minority census tracts in the city. Lisha has 13 years’ experience in local and international organizing, including at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, the City of Portland New Portlander Program, and Elders in Action. Her involvement with the diverse community in Portland earned her recognition: PSU President’s Diversity Award in 2015 and Community Leader of the Year Spirit of Portland Award in 2017. She earned a BA from Kathmandu University, an MA from Portland State, and expects to receive a PhD from PSU next year.

Daniel Tichenor is Philip H. Knight Chair of Social Science and director of the Wayne Morse Center’s Program for Democratic Governance. His research focuses on immigration policy, patterns of nativism, social movements, and national political institutions. He has published seven books and more than 80 journal articles and book chapters. His books include Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control (Princeton University Press), The Oxford Handbook on the Politics of International Migration (Oxford University Press), with Marc Rosenblum. His forthcoming book is Unsettled: Governing Immigration in a Polarized Nation (Princeton University Press). He has won many awards for his research and teaching, including the A.J. Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching and the 2020 Williams Fellowship for “exceptional and innovative teaching.”