CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will host an open forum on Thursday, April 29, that will examine issues surrounding Oregon's undocumented work force and the impact it has on the state's economy and social programs.

The conference, called "Undocumented Workers and Families in Oregon," will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in OSU's LaSells Stewart Center. It is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by several OSU programs, the conference is designed to provide the public with a "broad, educational framework to understanding the key issues surrounding this emerging work force," said Joseph Krause, who chairs OSU's Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

"Oregon's growing population of undocumented workers is a critical topic rarely discussed in an open forum," Krause said. "Through a series of panels and sessions, the public will have an opportunity to better comprehend the circumstances or realities affecting undocumented workers - legal, linguistic, educational, job safety and others.

"The forum also will look at the many important initiatives taking shape across the state that aim to set clear policy alternatives for undocumented workers while sustaining the vitality of the Oregon economy," he added.

Three panel discussions are planned: "The Dynamics of Oregon's Invisible Workforce," 9:15 to 10:45 a.m.; "The Families and Children of Undocumented Workers," 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and "The Voices of Workers in the Willamette Valley," 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. (a bilingual session).

Breakout sessions in the afternoon will examine several topics relating to undocumented workers and their families, including education, poverty, Oregon's economy, language and cultural barriers, violation of labor laws, criminalization, and the urban work force.

Panelists and session leaders represent numerous constituencies. They include Jose Luis Alvarado, Deputy Consul General of Mexico in Portland; Roy Malensky, an Oregon berry grower; Ramon Ramirez, the Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers Union; Frank Fromherz, the Archdiocese of Portland; Mario Magana and Cristino Montes, OSU students and migrant workers; Guadalupe Quinn, the Network for Immigrant Justice; Melchor Gamez, Salem Public Schools; Tina Garcia, area coordinator of Migrant Programs; Alex Pulaski, The Oregonian; faculty from OSU; Thom Nelson, the Hood River Shipper Grower Association; and representatives of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The conference is sponsored by OSU's Minority Education Office, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, the Ethnic Studies Department, the Convocations and Lectures Committee, the Department of Philosophy, the OSU Extension Service, and The Ecumenical Council of Oregon.

The conference kicks off a year-long series of OSU Extension-supported events on topics related to poverty in Oregon.

For more information on the conference, including receiving college credit, call 541-737-3935.

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Joseph Krause, 541-737-2146