OneAmerica, which until 2008 was known as “Hate Free Zone,” was founded soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to “address the backlash in a post-9/11 world against immigrant communities of color, primarily Muslims, Arab Americans, East Africans, and South Asians.” Currently the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State, OneAmerica collaborates with likeminded allies at the local, state, and national levels to “buil[d] power within immigrant communities” and defend immigrants from the “discrimination and oppression” that allegedly pervade American society. By OneAmerica’s reckoning, “Everyone living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status, must receive equal treatment under the law.”
In the wake of 9/11, OneAmerica condemned the U.S. government for passing laws “infringing on the civil rights of non-citizens”—most notably the PATRIOT Act, which “severely limited the privacy and due process rights of immigrants.”
Among OneAmerica’s most significant early initiatives was a January 2003 rally protesting the federal government’s newly implemented “Special Registration” program requiring non-citizen adult males residing in the U.S. to register with the Department of Homeland Security if they hailed originally from any of 25 Arab, Muslim, or South Asian countries that were considered potential exporters of terrorism. The following month, OneAmerica helped organize a large demonstration denouncing both the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq, and America’s ongoing “War on Immigrants.” In June of that year, OneAmerica collaborated with Senator Ted Kennedy and a number of national partner organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)—to organize a “Justice For All” hearing in Washington, DC on behalf of illegal immigrants.
In April 2004, OneAmerica worked with the Seattle City Council to pass a resolution opposing Congress’s proposed Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act, which sought to authorize local police to enforce federal immigration laws. Two months later, OneAmerica partnered with the Council on American-Islamic Relations‘ Seattle chapter to launch a Muslim Civic Engagement Project emphasizing the registration of new Muslim voters.
Today, OneAmerica has several major objectives:
(1) To “increase and enhance the participation of immigrants in civic life,” OneAmerica’s Civic Engagement & Electoral Work initiative seeks to involve every person in the political process, “regardless of citizenship status.” Toward that end, OneAmerica has registered scores of thousands of new immigrant voters. Moreover, through a program called Washington New Americans, OneAmerica has partnered with the AILA to help legal permanent residents obtain their citizenship.
(2) To “win positive policy change” and thereby “improve the public climate” for immigrant communities, OneAmerica’s Policy Advocacy and Research initiative strives to persuade local, state, and federal leaders to enact laws that protect “safety net services for immigrants and refugees,” and to oppose “anti-immigrant policies” such as the “harsh enforcement” of existing immigration laws.
(3) To “increase the capacity of immigrant organizations across the state to lead and advocate for change,” OneAmerica has established a Community Organizing program that represents “the core” of its work. A key component of this program is its Youth Organizing initiative, which engages young immigrants in “organizing through Action Squads at their schools.”
(4) Lamenting that barriers of “race, ethnicity, [and] socio-economic status” have created a “growing educational opportunity gap in Washington State,” OneAmerica calls for reforms that will improve the scholastic experience of immigrant children. In pursuit of this goal, the organization has partnered with the Road Map Project in an effort to double the number of immigrants in the South King County, Washington region who are on track to graduate from college or earn a career credential by 2020. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helps to fund this effort.
(5) Another priority of OneAmerica is to support legislation that would bar law-enforcement from employing “the degrading practice” of racial profiling which targets people of African American, Hispanic, Arab, South Asian, or Muslim ancestry.
Much of OneAmerica’s activism finds its expression at conventions, marches, and rallies calling for “just and humane” immigration-policy reforms. In 2011, for instance, OneAmerica collaborated with the National Partnership for New Americans to host a National Immigrant Integration Conference that brought together more than 700 policymakers, immigration-law practitioners, faith leaders, elected officials, funders, community organizers, researchers, and business representatives to discuss immigration issues.
OneAmerica advises illegal immigrants not to answer any questions posed to them by police officers, DHS personnel, or FBI agents without first consulting a lawyer, lest whatever information they supply “be used against [them] in a criminal, immigration or civil case.” “Always carry with you the name and telephone number of a lawyer who will take your calls,” OneAmerica urges these immigrants. Moreover, the OneAmerica website provides a link to “a very informative video” that “gives advice for when you might be approached by law enforcement.”
OneAmerica has received awards and accolades from numerous lefwing organizations, including such notables as the Center for Community Change, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Service Employees International Union.
The board president of OneAmerica is University of Washington political science professor Luis Ricardo Fraga. In 2011, Barack Obama appointed Fraga to head the President’s Advisory Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.
The executive director of OneAmerica is Rich Stolz, who in 1994 worked against the passage of Proposition 187, a ballot measure that barred illegal immigrants from accessing social services in California. Prior to joining OneAmerica, Stolz, a devoted adherent of liberation theology, worked for the Center for Community Change and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.