A new petition in Oregon could scrap what is commonly known as Oregon’s “Sanctuary Law”, which prevents local law enforcement in Oregon from collaborating with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) if the only crime someone commits is the civil offense of being undocumented.
Independant Petition 22 was filed by OFIR (Oregonians For Immigration Reform), an organization with a belief in maintaining “traditional levels” of legal immigration in the United States. If OFIR can garner over 88,000 signatures by July 2018, voters could be seeing IP 22 on the ballot come next November.
Independant Petition 22 has the congressional support Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford and Rep. Greg Barreto, R-Pendleton.
Oregon’s “Sanctuary Law”, ORS 181A.820, passed in 1987 after local police in rural areas began arresting people they presumed to be undocumented. “It turns out some of those people were US citizens. That created a huge liability for the state,” said Andrea Williams, Executive Director of the immigrants’ rights group Causa.
“Fast forward to today, you take away that law and you open the door for increased racial profiling,” Williams said. Causa is part of One Oregon, a coalition working against legislation that could harm immigrants in Oregon.
Part of the argument against IP 22 is that local law enforcement would have to use its time and resources to enforce immigration, the job of Department of Homeland Security’s ICE. “They have the tools, they have the resources, they have the training to do what is really solely their job, which enforces federal immigration law. Immigration is a federal issue,” Williams said.
Last Spring in Texas, a senate bill passed requiring local law enforcement to collaborate with ICE, and allowed police to ask for immigration status from anyone they detain or arrest. In August 2017, a federal judge blocked the majority of the bill, deeming it unconstitutional.
“Senate Bill 4 would have lead to discrimination,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon, at a city panel on immigration earlier this year.
“Racism has no place here, and for those who think this would never happen in Oregon, there is a ballot measure in our state being funded by white supremacists,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann during the same panel.
This isn’t OFIR’s first experience with the ballot box. In 2014, OFIR garnered enough signatures to create a referendum to topple Measure 88 in Oregon.
Signed by Ted Kulongoski in 2013, Measure 88 proposed making it legal for undocumented immigrants in Oregon to have a driver’s card— different from a license in that it isn’t a form of identification.
“We are rewarding bad behavior,” said Rep.Esquivel during the legislative session for Measure 88, according to The Oregonian in 2013.
“We qualified for the ballot, and all the newspapers in Oregon, all of them came out in opposition to us,” Ludwick said. He described Oregon driver’s licenses as a “gold standard” for criminals.
In the end, 66 percent of voters voted no on Measure 88. Driver’s cards are not available today for undocumented immigrants living in Oregon.
“We consistently hear from our community that [driving] is the number one issue,” said Williams.
She says that a big part of the reason that OFIR’s referendum won is due to the nearly $100,000 donation from out-of-state billionaire Loren Parks, who owns a medical supplies company in Aloha, Oregon.
Oregonians For Immigration Reform was able to hire signature gatherers and canvassers to secure the referendum on the ballot. In 2013, the Oregonian referred to Parks as “one of the largest individual donors in Oregon politics.”
While IP 22 has yet to receive a donation as large as Park’s, the campaign has received $3,000 from immigration reform organization US Inc., labeled a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
In 2016, the SPLC labeled OFIR, formally founded in 2000, as an “extreme nativist” organization. “You’ll never read [from] SPLC that OFIR is in favor of legal immigration at traditional levels,” Ludwick said.
Ludwick says the initial purpose of the group was to start a debate about immigration and to “get people to make a connection between the quality of life, our sovereignty and immigration.”
“We can’t be the dumping ground for the disenfranchised,” Ludwick said. Part of the group’s platform is that higher immigration levels take a toll on the local environment by keeping the US level of carbon emissions high, for example.
“One can’t be both pro-environment and pro-illegal immigration,” stated Richard F. LaMountain, a member of OFIR, in an opinions piece for The Portland Tribune last August, Ludwick says that some former members of the Sierra Club are now a part of OFIR.
Williams says that the Sierra Club is currently against IP 22.
The initiative received its official ballot title, “Repeals law limiting use of state/local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws” this October after an Oregon supreme court case debating the language of the sentence.
”It’s a very critical process, it’s the only sentence voters are guaranteed to read before they vote yes or no. It can account for 10 to 20 percent of the vote alone,” Williams said, adding that Causa believes the approved ballot title is accurate.
“Based on my experience with Measure 88. I think if we get IP 22 on the ballot, we are going to win. People are fed up with these sanctuary policies. In many ways, American Citizens are second class in their own country [as] one particular group is exempt from laws,” Ludwick said
‘We are expecting it to be on the ballot, based off of OFIR’s track record, the type of funding that they are able to secure and successfully qualify. We expect to see it qualify in July,” Williams said.
This article originally appeared in the print edition of our November 2017, issue.