Thousands of people attended the WALK with Refugees and Immigrants event on July 21. Dylan Jefferies/PSU Vanguard

Benefit walk to support refugees and immigrants in NE Portland draws thousands

Multiple organizations and thousands of attendees held a community benefit walk on July 21 in Northeast Portland to show support and solidarity for refugees and immigrants living in Portland and around the nation.

WALK with Refugees and Immigrants was put together by Parks for New Portlanders—a program initiated by Portland Parks and Recreation that intends to provide recreation opportunities for refugees and immigrants—who partnered with Portland Sunday Parkways, multiple refugee and immigrant organizations and various nonprofits. This year was the third year the event has been held. 

The walk began at 11 a.m. at the East Portland Community Office. Opening ceremonies were held in front of the building and included a variety of speakers and musicians. After the opening ceremonies, the crowd of thousands embarked on a one-mile walk ending at Knott Park where various booths were set up, as well as a stage showcasing additional speakers and multicultural performances.

Portland Parks and Recreation Director Adena Long began the opening ceremonies. 

“At Parks, we are all committed to providing meaningful recreation opportunities for all Portlanders, for all languages and for all cultures,” Long said. “Supporting refugees and immigrants continues to be a priority for the bureau.”

Long then brought Portland City Council Commissioner Chole Eudaly to the podium.

“We don’t need to focus on ugliness and hate today. That’s not what today is about,” Eudaly said.

She had the crowd exclaim “this city belongs to all of us!” and “this country belongs to all of us!”

After Eudaly, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum gave a few words. 

“At the Oregon Department of Justice—which I lead—we stand together with our immigrant and refugee communities,” Rosenblum said. “We file lawsuits to protect our treasured [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and preserve our states and our city’s sanctuary status.”

“In Portland, we support our refugees and immigrants,” Rosenblum said. “Whether you were forced to leave your homeland for your safety or survival, or chose to leave to seek a better life, your courage is commendable and we support you.” 

“Thank you for sharing your stories, your history, your culture, and your talents,” she continued. “Your presence and your contributions make our communities richer and stronger, and thank you for choosing Portland as your home. We’re here to demonstrate that you have the support of Oregon’s chief law office, and that I will always be proud to walk with you.”

After the opening ceremonies, attendees began their walk to Knott Park, where Multnomah County Commissioners Susheela Jayapal and Lori Stegmann spoke. The Multnomah Board of County Commissioners is an all-female majority minority board.

“After the past weekend, the past week, the things we’ve heard emanating from the occupant of the white house—it does my heart good to be here with you,” Jayapal said. “It lifts my spirits.” 

Jayapal is an immigrant from India. She represents District 2 of Multnomah County, which is comprised of North and Northeast Portland.

“In Portland—in Multnomah County—we don’t just resist hate; we insist on love, and we show what love looks like,” she continued. “This is what love looks like.”

Lori Stegmann, who represents District 4 as a Multnomah County Commissioner, is an immigrant from South Korea. She came to the United States as part of the Holt airlift, where over 3,000 babies were lifted out of South Korea and then adopted by American families.

“We must put people over politics and not stand silent as children are separated from their families and put into horrific conditions,” Stegmann said. “We are a nation of immigrants. As one of those immigrants and a U.S. citizen, I’m appalled by the racist acts that we are seeing.” 

Performances were interspersed between speakers, and multiple dances were put on by groups representing Peru, Mexico, China and Vietnam, among others.

The Lights for Liberty protest on July 12 filled the streets of Portland with hundreds of marchers protesting immigration detention camps along the U.S. borders that have come under intense scrutiny after allegations and reports of mistreatment—especially toward children—began to surface. 

The Trump administration has ramped up immigration enforcement over the past year. Under Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, immigrant families were routinely separated at the border, and detention centers began to far exceed their capacity limits.