Meet Oregonians For Immigration Reform: The "Nativist Extremist Group" Using The Media To Derail Immigration Reform Efforts In Oregon
Research ››› ››› JESSICA TORRES
Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) is an anti-immigrant, nativist organization that has used local media campaigns with other nativist organizations to fight against legislation in Oregon aimed at supporting immigrants. After successfully attacking licenses for undocumented immigrants, OFIR has launched a new campaign to lobby against a bill that would allow undocumented immigrant graduates from Oregon high schools to receive state funded, need-based college scholarships.
OFIR Attacks Oregon Bill Allowing Undocumented Immigrant Students To Apply For State Aid
Oregon Legislatures Propose "Tuition Equity" Law Allowing Immigrants To Receive State Funded, Need-Based Scholarships. Oregon's Register-Guard reported that Oregon lawmakers are considering expanding a 2013 "tuition equity" law to let undocumented immigrant students - "who must be Oregon high school graduates -- receive state-funded, need-based college scholarships through the Oregon Opportunity Grant program."
This year, Senate Bill 932 would let those students -- who must be Oregon high school graduates -- receive state-funded, need-based college scholarships through the Oregon Opportunity Grant program. The scholarships are up to $2,000 per student per year.
Proponents of the bill argue that those eligible, who've often spent much of their life in this country, face an unfair disadvantage in paying for college because they aren't eligible for subsidized federal student loans or most public scholarship programs. [The Register-Guard, 4/4/15]
OFIR Attacked "Tuition Equity" Bill Claiming It Would Make "Citizens Will Be Competing Against Illegal Aliens For These Scholarships."The Register-Guard cited OFIR spokesperson Jim Ludwick, who attacked the proposal and claimed that passing the law means that "citizens will be competing against illegal aliens for these scholarships." [The Register-Guard, 4/4/15]
Who Are Oregonians For Immigration Reform?
OFIR "Works To Stop Illegal Immigration As Well As Reduce Legal Immigration To A More Environmentally, Economically And Socially Sustainable Level." The Oregonians for Immigration Reform website explains that the organization "works to stop illegal immigration as well as reduce legal immigration to a more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable level here in Oregon and across the United States." [Oregonir.org, accessed 4/17/15]
SPLC: OFIR Is A "Nativist Extremist Group." The Southern Poverty Law Center identified OFIR as an active "nativist extremist group." [SPLC, Spring 2014]
OFIR Used Media For Push To Overturn Bill To Give Drivers Licenses To Undocumented Immigrants
In Oregon's Statesman Journal, OFIR President Wrote Op-Ed Claiming That Giving Driver Licenses To "Illegal Immigrants" Would Threaten Jobs For Native Oregonians. OFIR president Cynthia Kendoll wrote in an op-ed for Oregon's Statesman Journal that driver cards would "invite the contempt" of citizens in Oregon, in her call for signatures for the Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses (PODL) campaign to force a referendum vote on SB 833. Kendoll argued that "driver cards enable illegal immigrants to compete for" jobs that would otherwise go to Oregonians. [Statesman Journal, 7/15/13]
In Letter To Editor Of Argus Observer, VP Of OFIR Wrote That "Illegal-Immigrant Driver Cards" Would "Enable Illegal Immigrants To Take And Keep Jobs From Our Fellow Citizens." Richard F. LaMountain, vice president of OFIR, wrote a letter to the editor published in the Argus Observer, claiming that "illegal-immigrant driver cards" would:
• Better enable illegal immigrants to take and keep jobs from our fellow citizens; and
• Aid and abet the drug cartels that rely heavily on illegal immigrants to transport their products and cultivate marijuana plantations on Eastern Oregon's public lands. [The Argus Observer, 8/6/13]
OFIR Member David Cross Wrote In Statesman Journal Op-Ed That Oregon "Legislature Sidestepped Citizen Input On SB 833." In an October 26, 2013, op-ed for the Statesman Journal, OFIR's David Cross argued that the PODL campaign was meant to "open up the democratic process to citizens shunned" by legislature. Cross advocated the PODL effort, calling it a "nonpartisan effort." Cross also claimed that SB 833 supporters had "no data" to prove the bill would "make Oregon's roads any safer." [Statesman Journal, 10/25/13]
OFIR's Campaign Was Credited With Defeating Oregon's Driver's License Bill. In November 2014, Oregon voters struck down a ballot initiative that would have upheld SB 833 and given drivers licenses, valid for up to four years, to undocumented immigrants. Imagine 2050, and immigration advocacy organization and project of the Center for New Community, reported that OFIR's PODL "referendum campaign to block SB 833 in Oregon represents one of the most organized and well-funded efforts in recent history." [The Center For New Community, Imagine 2050, 10/1/13; The New American, 11/17/14]
OFIR Has Repeatedly Made False And Misleading Claims About Immigrants
Politifact: OFIR And PODL Campaign Ignored "Critical Facts" In Claims About SB 833 Being Crafted Without Citizen Input. In August 2014, Politifact debunked OFIR claims that former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber "formed a group to create SB 833 'behind closed doors without allowing any input from citizens who represent the public interest." According to Politifact, this claim was "mostly false." [Politifact, 8/13/14]
Politifact Found That OFIR Used Inflated FAIR Statistics To Suggest That "Illegal Aliens" Cost Oregonians $1 Billion A Year. According to Politifact, "OFIR did not itself calculate the costs, but relies on a December 2012 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform" to make claims that undocumented immigrants would cost Oregon taxpayers $1 billion a year. This claim was found to be inflated and rated "mostly false." [Politifact, 6/15/13]
Oregon Trade Group That Advocated For Driver Cards For Immigrants Disputed OFIR's Claims That Cards Are "De Facto Immigration Reform." In an October 21, 2014, article by the Statesman Journal, reporter Carol McAlice Currie noted that the Oregon Winegrowers Association, the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Oregon Catholic Conference and the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon were among some of the leading supporters of SB 833. Executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries disputed OFIR's claims that driver cards for immigrants were "de facto immigration reform," explaining that the bill would "make Oregon a safer place" :
OFIR and PODL say, undocumented workers will use the cards to board airplanes, rent apartments, take jobs from American workers, and open bank accounts.
On its website, OFIR says SB 833 "legitimizes the presence of people here illegally," which is what Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, says is at the heart of the problem. Many opponents of the measure call it de facto immigration reform.
But it's not, Stone maintains.
"We get that a lot of folks are frustrated by the immigration issue. We get that the Congress has not solved it in more than three decades," Stone said. "I am frustrated, too. But we're just trying to make Oregon a safer place." [Statesman Journal, 10/21/14]
OFIR Is Reportedly Closely Tied To Anti-Immigrant, Nativist Organizations
Imagine 2050: OFIR Is "The State Contact Group For FAIR." In October 2013, Imagine 2050 noted that OFIR is the "state contact group for [the Federation for Immigration Reform] FAIR," helping the group lead and finance the ballot initiative against immigrant drivers cards. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described FAIR as an extremist anti-immigrant group whose "leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements." [Center for New Community, Imagine 2050, 10/30/13; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 4/20/15]
Immigrant Rights Activist: FAIR "Helped Fund" And Strategize With OFIR For The PODL Campaign. According to an opinion piece in The Register Guard written by a local immigrants rights activist, FAIR "helped fund the campaign against Oregon's drivers' cards for undocumented immigrants legislation." The opinion also noted that OFIR "spearheaded the effort" against drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and that "the strategy OFIR and FAIR have in common is that of disinformation." [The Register Guard, 4/8/15]
OFIR President Attended FAIR'S Annual Event Bringing Together Anti-Immigrant Activists. The Anti-Defamation League reported that Cynthia Kendoll, president of OFIR, attended FAIR's annual "Hold Their Feet To The Fire" event in 2013. The annual event "brings together anti-immigrant activists, figures, radio hosts and immigration restrictionist members of Congress in an effort to influence the immigration debate." [ADL.org, 10/30/14]
OFIR President Spoke To The Social Contract, An Anti-Immigration Nativist Organization. In October 2014, OFIR president Cynthia Kendoll addressed the nativist organization The Social Contract's writers workshop conference to garner support for PODL. During her speech, Kendoll suggested that driver cards have a direct link to terrorism, invoking the 9/11 terrorist attacks to determine that we need to "secure our driver's licenses." Kendoll's presentation was praised by Peter Brimelow, editor of VDARE.com, a white nationalist website. [VDARE.com, 10/20/14; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 4/20/15]
SPLC: Social Contract Publishes "Racist Arguments About The Inferiority Of Today's Immigrants." The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that Social Contract is "anti-immigrant" and propagates anti-Hispanic arguments:
The Social Contract Press (TSCP) routinely publishes race-baiting articles penned by white nationalists. The press is a program of U.S. Inc, the foundation created by John Tanton, the racist founder and principal ideologue of the modern nativist movement. TSCP puts an academic veneer of legitimacy over what are essentially racist arguments about the inferiority of today's immigrants. Recent articles in its main product, The Social Contract, have propagated the myth that Latino activists want to occupy and 'reclaim' the American Southwest, argued that no Muslim immigrants should be allowed into the U.S., and claimed that multiculturalists are trying to replace "successful Euro-American culture" with "dysfunctional Third World cultures." [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 4/15/15]
OFIR Co-Founder Donated At Least To $31,500 To Anti-Immigration U.S. Immigration Reform PAC. OFIR co-founder Elizabeth Van Staaveren donated at least $31,500 to U.S. Immigration Reform PAC since 2000. [OpenSecrets.org accessed 4/16/15]
U.S. Immigration Reform PAC Is The "Main Political Action Committee" Of A White Nationalist Anti-Immigration Network. According to Imagine 2050, "US Immigration Reform PAC is the main political action committee of the John Tanton Network," otherwise known as a tight-knit group of anti-immigrant groups on both a national and local level. [Center for New Community, Imagine2050.org, 11/5/10]