Q&A with NWHF Board Member, Andrea Miller

 Photo portrait of Andrea Miller.

Q. What is a day like in the life of Andrea Miller?

A. Every day I get to meet new people, work on some of the most pressing issues in Oregon, and put into practice my values of equity and justice for all. I consider myself pretty lucky. This kind of work, however, is non-stop, and the hours can be erratic—working on the weekends and evenings. The key to my daily productivity and sustainability in this work is the 30 to 45 minutes I take in the morning to exercise. It helps to clear my head and get me ready to take on the day.

Q. What would you consider the most important bills that passed in the 2015 legislative session?

A. So many important bills passed in the 2015 legislative session, it's hard for me to label one as "the most important." From where I sit as the director of Causa, I will say that there are several bills that will have a significant impact on communities of color. One of those is the Paid Sick Days bill, which will allow nearly half a million Oregonians to earn sick days so that they can take a day off of work to care for a sick child or themselves without having to miss a day of pay. Considering that 60% of Latino workers did not have access to one paid sick day before this bill, this is monumental. The other one is the End Profiling bill, which bans the practice of profiling as a law enforcement tactic. Oregon will soon shift to community policing, a more effective public safety strategy that fosters trust between law enforcement officers and communities.  People in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are targeted the most, leading to higher arrest and conviction rates among people of color generally—and African-Americans specifically. The End Profiling bill is a step in the right direction, as local communities across the nation struggle with the correlation between police violence and communities of color.

Q. What are Causa's goals this year, and how are you working to meet them?

A. (1) Make progress on statewide policies that impact Latino families during the legislative session. (2) Defend against proposed statewide policies that don’t support equity for all Oregonians. (3) Support immigrants through the processes of naturalization and deferred action status and serve as a resource hub for immigrant families seeking relief.

So how've we done so far?

(1) During the legislative session, 2 out of 5 bills on Causa’s legislative agenda became law. Our strategy to make that happen was two-fold: train and mobilize people directly impacted by the issue to voice their support for the bill, and participate in strong coalitions that support our priority bills. The coalitions we were a part of included the Oregon Health Equity Alliance and the Fair Shot Coalition, both of which had significant wins last session.

(2) The same group that put Measure 88 on the ballot has filed two initiative petitions that will negatively impact communities of color. Causa and our partners have convened a broad coalition to proactively counteract the effort to qualify two ballot measures for the 2016 election.

(3) Causa holds naturalization and DACA workshops to help individuals fill out their application free of cost or at a low-cost with attorney assistance. We’ve also launched a bilingual website and Facebook page called Oregon Immigration Resource to widely distribute resources, updates, and information about administrative relief and other immigration programs.

Q. What are next steps for immigration reform since DAPA passed?

A. Unfortunately, we can’t turn our attention away from the immigration administrative relief that Obama made possible just yet. The executive action is being challenged in the courts by a group of states that disagree with Obama’s administrative changes. Causa and our national partners are doing all we can to advocate for the deferred action programs to move forward so that the immigrant parents of U.S. born children can apply for protection from deportation, work authorization and, in Oregon, get a driver license. Ultimately, we’ll keep advocating for Congressional action on immigration reform long-term, but first we need to secure the small victory that was made in 2015 with the expansion of the deferred action program.

Q. How does your role on the NWHF board compliment your work at Causa, and vice versa?

A. The relationships I’ve built through Causa, and my experience as a past [NWHF] grantee, inform my decision making with the Community Engagement Committee at NWHF. I’m in a very privileged position where I both get to be part of philanthropy that supports equity initiatives and a practitioner of on-the-ground advocacy and organizing work. I get to see both the 1,000-foot level and the 10-foot level of this larger work, which sharpens my abilities both at Causa and NWHF.

Q. How do you identify with NWHF's guiding values and equity priorities?

A. One of NWHF’s guiding principles I identify with most is, “Promoting upstream, systemic change through advocacy is often the most effective strategy for improving community health.” One of the reasons I started working at Causa is because I saw advocacy and policy change as a way to make big and long lasting impact for Oregon families. NWHF invests in organizations that seek systemic change, and that's a very intentional and long-term commitment. It can be difficult to see the results of your work when we’re talking about system change, but it pays off in the long run by closing the gap on health, education, economic and other disparities among Oregon’s diverse communities.

Q. What drew you to Oregon?

A. I was born in Eugene and raised in Salem, Oregon. While I’ve grown up here, I’ve chosen to make Oregon my home and start a career here. Growing up, there were so many pressures to leave and explore new states and cities, and to this day I still get asked why I never left or if I have plans to leave in the future. I love Oregon—our trees, our people, our communities. Oregon and the leaders that live here have allowed me so many opportunities to grow in my professional and personal life. I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.

Q. What is your favorite place in the U.S. outside of Oregon?

A. Maui, Hawaii. There are obvious reasons why that would be the case for nearly anyone—the gorgeous beaches, the weather. But Maui is my favorite place in the U.S. besides Oregon because it is my second home. My family has lived in Hawaii for five generations. My grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins all live there. I try to visit every other year. I’m very lucky to have roots in such a beautiful part of our country.