OFIR to host CIS policy director on heels of hate group designation
Oregonians for Immigration Reform, an organization that calls for an end to illegal immigration, will host the Center for Immigration Studies policy director in its general membership meeting this Saturday.
Jessica Vaughan will discuss sanctuary policies that are being developed in the face of President Donald Trump's immigration orders, and the implications of those orders, which has included targeted deportations of undocumented immigrants in Oregon.
Vaughan's speaking engagement comes a little over a month after the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Center for Immigration Studies as a hate group, specifically labeling it as anti-immigrant. The law center said the group was dubbed a hate group because it shares content by "white nationalists, Holocaust deniers and material from explicitly racist websites."
Cynthia Kendoll, president of OFIR, said the designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center "means nothing to me. I think that any time a group is being successful and is making good points and providing education, they’re designated as a hate group.
"I think SPLC has gone off the rails."
Kendoll, who met Vaughan while attending a tour of the United States-Mexico border as part of the El Paso National Sheriff's Border School, said the hate group designation proves CIS is doing useful work and should be considered a "badge of honor."
Some local civil rights organizations, however, said Vaughan's attendance merely adds fuel to the testy political climate in Oregon.
"It's particularly troubling because we see a rise in hate crimes here in Oregon with the hateful rhetoric that they and Trump have publicly stated," said Andrea Williams, executive director of immigrant rights organization Causa Oregon.
Kendoll said OFIR is commonly referred to as an anti-immigrant group as well, but said that moniker doesn't describe the organization's values and objectives.
Instead, Kendoll said, OFIR is concerned about the consequences of legal and illegal immigration. OFIR's focus has shifted from its initial focus of "unfettered, unchecked" immigration and its impact on issues like traffic, urban sprawl and water usage, and expanded its scope to include impacts on issues like crime, school overcrowding and use of entitlement programs.
She said OFIR is nonpartisan its goal to explore immigration's impacts, and it invites speakers of different backgrounds to speak at membership meetings.
"We're not policy setters. All we're doing is simply giving people the opportunity to learn about what's going on," Kendoll said.
One of OFIR's more high-profile guests, Kendoll said, was former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio was the keynote speaker at a rally on the Oregon State Capitol steps in 2015 and discussed immigration, gun laws and crime policy. He was accused of violating Latino civil rights in a racial-profiling lawsuit in 2013 for pulling over Latinos over suspicion of being undocumented. The Department of Justice subsequently filed a criminal contempt of court charge against Arpaio for continuing to detain suspected undocumented immigrants without probable cause.
Williams said OFIR's history of giving people like Arpaio and Vaughan a platform invites the community to spread negativity amongst its undocumented immigrant neighbors.
But Kendoll said Vaughan's visit is merely showcasing her decades-long work examining the impact of immigration in the United States.
If you go
Who: Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies
What: Oregonians for Immigration Reform's General Membership meeting
When: Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Best Western Mill Creek Inn at 3125 Ryan Drive SE, Salem
The event is free. Guests will be asked to sign in upon arriving.