OneAmerica's mission is to advance the fundamental principles of democracy and justice through building power in immigrant communities, in collaboration with key allies. Initially named Hate Free Zone, the organization was founded immediately after September 11, 2001 to address the backlash in a post 9/11 world against immigrant communities of color, primarily Muslims, Arab Americans, East Africans, and South Asians.
Since then, OneAmerica has expanded into the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State, organizing in and advocating for and with a diversity of immigrant communities including Latino, African, and Asian. OneAmerica also plays a leading role in national coalitions within the immigrant rights and due process arenas. OneAmerica works to change the limits of what is possible, and all of our staff are grounded in the belief that anything is possible if we organize and advocate together.
“We are Immigrants, We are Taxpayers, We are Washington, We are America!”
OneAmerica’s organizing program is at the core of our work and essential for effective policy change that connects real people to the changes their communities need. OneAmerica uses different models of organizing for our work in different communities throughout Washington state. Through OneAmerica base groups in 11 cities across the state, OneAmerica identifies and develops leaders within immigrant communities to lead the struggle for justice through the base groups, which act as intentional spaces for them to gather and share experiences, build new skills and consciousness, and use their creative talents to inform, educate, and mobilize their communities. Using a similar model, OneAmerica has formed a Youth Organizing Program, where immigrant youth are engaged in organizing through Action Squads at their schools, and an East African Emerging Leaders group to advocate for issues specific to their communities.
From Mount Vernon to Vancouver, and Yakima to Walla Walla, our leaders are meeting with their legislative officials and local law enforcement, fighting for immigration reform; organizing forums on key strategic issues such as "Secure Communities" and racial profiling; speaking at public hearings on redistricting, education, and the state budget; and engaging broadcast and print media to get their messages out. Our member leaders are proud to wear their teal t-shirts and help build a movement in support of immigrants, one that gives them a voice in decision-making and strengthens our communities.
OneAmerica has a successful track record of actively shaping policy and educating policy makers about issues around immigrants and immigration. OneAmerica has significantly influenced local, state, and federal leaders, legislation and policies that impact immigrant communities, maintaining a place as a nationally recognized movement builder.
Locally, OneAmerica has worked to pass resolutions, ordinances and develop policies that protect and advance the rights and needs of immigrants. At the state level, OneAmerica has led the fight against harsh enforcement and anti-immigrant policies, and protected safety net services for immigrants and refugees. Nationally, OneAmerica has been a leading force in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, working in coalition with other leading national and state coalitions through the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and the Reform Immigration for America campaign. OneAmerica has also been a leader in ensuring the protection of due process, civil rights and civil liberties through its leadership role in the Rights Working Group.
Nationally, OneAmerica has also played a leading role in the National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition that advances immigrant integration, and recently co-hosted the 4th annual National Immigrant Integration Conference, drawing nearly 800 participants from across the country. OneAmerica also undertakes essential research that helps educate policy makers and the general public as well as identifying key legislative policy changes that need to take place. We also create and implement unique pilot programs that can serve as models across the country for expanding access to essential skills for immigrants to integrate, such as our English Innovations project which assists immigrants in learning English using technology.
Our civic engagement work is rooted in the core belief that participating fully in our democracy and our communities is essential to building a strong country. We work to bring every person’s voice and abilities to the movement to create real democracy, engaging people - regardless of citizenship status - to engage fully in their communities. For new Americans, that means voting. We believe that everyone, regardless of immigration status, has the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to their communities, schools, and workplaces.
We also assist legal permanent residents who are eligible to obtain their citizenship through a creative and innovative program called Washington New Americans, a partnership with the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Our civic engagement activities include voter registration, education and mobilization, and nonpartisan grassroots and direct lobbying with local, state and federal officials on key issues that matter to immigrants. From 2007-2009, OneAmerica conducted the largest ever immigrant voter registration and mobilization drive, registering over 24,000 new immigrant citizens to vote. In 2010, OneAmerica Votes, a sister 501(c)4 organization, was established to build the electoral power of immigrants. Over 250 immigrant volunteers were in electoral campaigns and strategies, including door knocking, phone banking, media, candidate interviews and endorsements and other skills.
OneAmerica believes that effective communications campaigns are essential to shaping public opinion and increasing understanding of immigrant integration and immigration reform issues. We constantly seek innovative ways to tell stories that will move the public debate, utilize social media - like Twitter and Facebook - to engage new audiences, and execute ethnic and mainstream media campaigns that move our issues and share compelling stories. OneAmerica has consistently been recognized for its excellent communications campaigns and its unique ability to develop grassroots members and leaders into media spokespeople.
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"This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."
- Martin Luther King Jr.