Letters and Op-Eds

Sal Esquivel
Mail Tribune

Should illegal immigrants have the right to drive in Oregon? Soon, you may get the chance to vote on that question.

Recently, a group of Oregonians operating as "Protect Oregon Driver Licenses" received authorization from the secretary of state to begin collecting signatures for a referendum on Senate Bill 833, the newly passed legislation granting "driver cards" to illegal immigrants. To put a measure on Oregon's November 2014 ballot that will allow voters to approve or reject the bill, the group must collect 58,142 signatures within 90 days of the end of the Legislature's 2013 session, which will be in late September.

I am one of the referendum's chief sponsors. I also serve in the Oregon Legislature. Why do I seek to refer to voters a bill that most of my colleagues approved?

First, SB 833 is bad public policy. By rewarding the crime of illegal entry, illegal-immigrant driver cards would undermine the rule of law generally and federal immigration law specifically. They would better enable illegal immigrants to take and keep jobs from Oregonians. And they would attract more illegal immigrants to our state. As the son of immigrants who came to America the right way, it is critically important to me that people here illegally do not receive the same benefits as immigrants who follow our laws.

Second, SB 833 was rammed through the Legislature so quickly that most Oregonians barely got the chance to scrutinize it and weigh in with their opinions.

Consider the timeline. On April 2, SB 833 was introduced. At month's end, it was passed by the Senate and House; on May 1, it was signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

And in between? On April 11, there was a perfunctory two-hour public hearing on the bill at which rank-and-file Oregonians were given two minutes apiece to present their views.

Contrast this with the bill's preparation. Beginning two years ago, a work group convened by the governor and aided by his tax-paid staff met frequently to craft the bill. The group was weighted heavily toward the business interests and ethnic lobbies that benefit financially and politically from illegal immigrants' presence. Its meetings were closed, and it sought no input from rank-and-file citizens.

Was all this an exercise in government of, by and for the people? No. It was, rather, a textbook example of "insider" government — of a process engineered by legislative and special-interest heavyweights to deter meaningful public involvement and assure a swift, predetermined outcome. It was a highly exclusive process — and, as such, an abdication of lawmakers' representative and deliberative responsibilities.

Grassroots Oregonians care deeply about their state's future. Occupied by job and family responsibilities, however, most don't have the time to track — or to respond quickly enough to influence — swiftly moving developments in the Legislature. And they certainly don't have the wherewithal to combat the power and pull of well-heeled interests with full-time Salem lobbyists.

On a momentous issue like illegal-immigrant driver cards, Oregonians deserved better than a fast-tracked bill, a cattle-call public hearing, and a cursory four-week window of engagement. Our referendum aims to do what the governor's invitation-only work group and our hastily acting lawmakers did not: provide for a sustained and informative public debate, and include rank-and-file Oregonians directly in the decision-making process.

To help qualify our referendum for the ballot, go to www.ProtectOregonDL.org. Print, sign, and return a single-signature petition today. Your action can help overturn a harmful new law — and strengthen representative government in Oregon.

Sal Esquivel represents Medford in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Richard F. LaMountain
Beaverton Valley Times

Dear Editor:

In May, the Oregon Legislature and Gov. John Kitzhaber passed a law (Senate Bill 833) granting "driver cards" to illegal immigrants.
Oregon voters, however -- right from their home computers -- can help keep that law from taking effect.
A group of Oregonians operating as "Protect Oregon Driver Licenses" is working to put a referendum onto the November 2014 statewide ballot that would give voters a chance to annul the driver-card law. To do so, the group needs to collect 58,142 signatures of registered voters this summer.
Why should Oregonians sign the referendum petition? Because illegal-immigrant driver cards would:
(a) Undermine the rule of law;
(b) Better enable illegal immigrants to take and keep jobs from Oregonians; and
(c) Aid and abet the drug cartels that rely heavily on illegal immigrants to transport their products.
More, notes Oregon Rep. Sal Esquivel, one of the referendum effort's chief sponsors, the driver-card law "was rammed through the Legislature so quickly that most Oregonians barely got the chance to scrutinize it and weigh in with their opinions." The referendum, he says, aims to "provide for a sustained and informative public debate, and include rank-and-file Oregonians directly in the decision-making process."
Getting your petition is easy. Go to www.ProtectOregonDL.org, print a single-signature petition sheet, sign it, and mail it to the listed address. By doing so, you can help repeal "driver cards" for illegal immigrants.
Richard F. LaMountain

Cedar Mill

Robert Bennett
Mail Tribune

The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that the Senate version of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill will be a net win for the economy. But Heritage Foundation figures tell a different story. Heritage defines the bill as a huge burden for the taxpayers, which will drown the economy in debt. It's a complex bill, so to determine who's right it would make sense to compare it to the last complex bill that was passed out of Congress — Obamacare.

When Obamacare was originally passed, the CBO estimated costs to the public at $900 billion. The Heritage Foundation projected expenses to be much higher. Since that time, however, CBO estimates for Obamacare have doubled to $1.8 trillion — and their projections are still rising.

With that in mind, and getting back to the immigration reform bill, the CBO estimates the immigration bill will shrink America's debt by $197 billion over 10 years, while the Heritage Foundation concludes it will increase the country's debt by $6.3 trillion over 50 years.

So who's right? The CBO was profoundly wrong on Obamacare, while the Heritage Foundation fell closer to the mark. You make the call.

— Robert Bennett, Grants Pass

Cynthia Kendoll

Oregon lawmakers often take actions that benefit favored constituencies but harm the state overall. Citizens have the opportunity to overturn a glaring example of this: the recently passed state law — Senate Bill 833 — that grants “driver cards” to illegal immigrants.

A group organized as Protect Oregon Driver Licenses is working to refer SB833 to voters. If they collect the signatures of 58,142 registered voters by Oct. 6, the state’s November 2014 ballot will include a measure enabling Oregonians to annul the law.

Why should Oregon voters sign PODL’s referendum petition?

First: Illegal-immigrant driver cards undermine the rule of law. A stable, harmonious society depends on the law’s consistent application to both citizens and non-citizens. A government that enforces laws on citizens, but bends laws to accommodate those here illegally, will invite the contempt of both.

More, as noted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a driver-card law “conflicts with and frustrates the purposes and objectives of federal immigration law.” Driver cards encourage illegal conduct and are one more way for illegal immigrants “to sidestep the process and gain the same benefits” as immigrants here legally, thereby giving other foreigners wishing to come here “little incentive to pursue the legal paths to immigration.”

Second: Illegal immigrants, FAIR calculated earlier this year, hold some 120,000 Oregon jobs. These are not, primarily, harvesting jobs (only 4 percent of illegal immigrants, the Pew Hispanic Center has estimated, work in agriculture). Nor are they other jobs Americans reputedly “won’t do.”

They are jobs in food services, production, construction and building maintenance/groundskeeping — jobs occupied disproportionately by young and minority Americans and that often provide the first rung on the ladder to supervisory and managerial work. Driver cards enable illegal immigrants to compete for such jobs with Oregonians, of whom, in May, more than 146,000 were unemployed.

Third: One goal of illegal-immigrant driver cards, asserts Gov. John Kitzhaber, is to “improve traffic safety by reducing the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Oregon roads.” But would they?

Senate Bill 1080, implemented in 2008, requires license applicants to prove U.S. citizenship or legal presence. Still, wrote Oregon DMV administrator Tom McClellan this year, SB1080 has “not had a major impact in the rate of unlicensed and uninsured driving.”

Any correlation between illegal-immigrant driving privileges, the number of licensed and insured motorists and road safety, concludes FAIR, “is tenuous at best.”

And last: “Thousands of undocumented immigrants,” notes the online Encyclopedia of Immigration, “work as couriers, smuggling narcotics into the U.S.” But if “a state trooper stops someone transporting illicit drugs and the driver presents” an Oregon driver card, writes Jim Ludwick, communications director of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, “the trooper may lack probable cause to search the car for contraband.” Driver cards could enable cartel-employed traffickers to operate here more easily.

Illegal-immigrant driver cards would undermine the rule of law, harm job-holding and job-seeking Oregonians (particularly youths and minorities), do little or nothing to ensure safer roads and abet drug cartels’ Oregon operations.

Go to www.ProtectOregonDL.org to learn more. Then print and sign a single-signature petition and return it to the listed address.

Your support will help hold lawmakers accountable, strengthen representative government and ensure Oregon works to serve its own people first and foremost.

Cynthia Kendoll of Salem is an authorized agent for Protect Oregon Driver Licenses and serves as president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. She can be reached at ofir@oregonir.org.

Congressman Tom Cotton
The Wall Street Journal

America is a nation of immigrants, but we're also a nation of laws, and the U.S. immigration system should respect both traditions. Unfortunately, the Senate immigration bill undermines the rule of law without solving the country's illegal-immigration problem, and it will harm American workers. The House of Representatives will reject any proposal with the Senate bill's irreparably flawed structure, which is best described as: legalization first, enforcement later . . . maybe.

This basic design flaw repeats the mistake of the 1986 amnesty law, which, according to former Attorney General Edwin Meese, President Reagan considered the biggest mistake of his presidency. The Senate bill ensures, as did the 1986 law, that we'll have full legalization but little-to-no enforcement.

The Senate bill's advocates argue that its implementation of enforcement measures, such as extending the security fence on the border with Mexico, will precede and be a "trigger" for opening a path to citizenship. But these advocates are conflating legalization and citizenship. America has approximately 12 million illegal immigrants, who chiefly desire the right to live and work here legally. The Senate bill legalizes them a mere six months after enactment.

In the bill, legalization comes with trivial preconditions. Pay a "fine"? Yes, but it's less than $7 per month and can be waived. Pay back taxes? Only if a tax lien has already been filed, which will be rare for undocumented work. Pass a criminal-background check? Yes, with a gaping exception allowed for illegal immigrants with up to two misdemeanors—or more, if the convictions occurred on the same day—even if these were pleaded down from felony offenses and included serious offenses such as domestic violence and drunken driving.

This approach is unjust and counterproductive. We should welcome the many foreigners patiently obeying our laws and waiting overseas to immigrate legally. Instead, the Senate bill's instant, easy legalization rewards lawbreakers and thus encourages more illegal immigration.

What's worse, the bill's illusory enforcement mechanisms won't stop this illegal immigration. Effective enforcement requires a border fence, a visa-tracking system to catch visa overstayers, and a workable employment-verification system. The Senate bill fails on all three fronts.

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 mandated 700 miles of fencing, but the Senate bill merely restates this long-ignored requirement without mentioning specs or locations. It also doesn't prohibit delay-inducing lawsuits from fence opponents. Further, the bill explicitly lets the secretary of Homeland Security decline to build a fence in a specific location if she decides it's not "appropriate."

Instead, the bill throws billions of dollars at the border for new border-patrol agents (though not until 2017) and sensor technologies. These solutions are complements, not substitutes, for a fence. When I was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, my units relied on guards and technology to secure our bases, but the first line of defense was always a physical perimeter.

That's because fences work. The fence built in the San Diego border sector dramatically reduced border crossings there from 100,000 per year to just 5,000 per year when it was completed in 2006, a 95% drop. Earlier this year, Israel reduced illegal crossings at its Sinai border to two per month from 2,000 per month by completing a fence. Why doesn't the Senate bill mandate an effective fence? The answer, plainly, is that the intention is not to build one.

Similarly, the Senate bill restates a 17-year-old requirement in federal law that the government have a functioning visa-tracking system. But it delays implementation for six years and increases by millions the visas available for low-skill immigrants. This will lead to more illegal immigration by visa overstayers, while depressing wages for young and lower-skill Americans. The bill also delays implementation of the employment-verification system by at least five years and doesn't require mandatory effectiveness levels for the system.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recognizes that these enforcement measures will be largely ineffective. The CBO estimates that, even with them, annual illegal immigration will decline by only one-third to one-half compared with current projections. After 10 years, the CBO predicts, the illegal-immigrant population will have declined to only eight million from today's 12 million. So much for solving the problem. All we're doing is setting up the next amnesty.

But it's actually worse because even these modest enforcement measures likely won't happen. Any future Congress can defund these programs, as has happened too often. The bill grants enforcement discretion to the bureaucracy in hundreds of instances. Opponents can tie up the bill in court for years, which would block implementation of key enforcement measures but not the path to citizenship. This is exactly what happened with the 1986 law: legalization now and enforcement never.

And what's to stop President Obama from refusing to enforce this law? After all, he just announced he won't enforce ObamaCare's employer mandate because of complaints from big business. If that's his attitude toward his biggest legislative accomplishment, imagine what he'll do when big business complains about, say, an employment-verification system he never wanted to begin with.

If enforcement fails, what's more likely: that legalized persons won't become citizens or that future Congresses will simply relax or eliminate the required "triggers"? If past is prologue, we know the answer.

Given all this history, the American people rightly doubt that the government will finally enforce immigration laws. Thus the best solution is to abandon the Senate bill's flawed framework and proceed with an enforcement-first approach that assures Americans that the border is secure and immigration laws are being enforced. The House is already pursuing that goal with committee-approved bills such as the Legal Workforce Act, which expedites the employment-verification system, and the SAFE Act, which empowers local and state law-enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws.

If the full House approves such bills, they should be sent directly to the Senate for consideration. They should not be handed to a conference committee so that they can be reconciled with the Senate bill—the Senate and House measures are irreconcilable. Instead, the Senate must choose whether it wants common-sense, confidence-building immigration legislation this year.

If the Senate insists on the legalization-first approach, then no bill will be enacted. Meanwhile, the House will remain focused on addressing ObamaCare, the economy and the national debt—which, after all, Americans overwhelmingly regard as higher priorities than immigration reform.

Mr. Cotton is a Republican congressman from Arkansas.

Jerry Ritter

Since the beginning of his Senate campaign, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has proclaimed his undying support for American workers while expressing “outrage” over illegal immigrants taking American jobs.

In his current newsletter he states, “there is no higher priority than creating and sustaining good jobs for Oregon’s working families.”

Yet at nearly every opportunity, both Oregon senators have instead voted to protect and help illegal immigrants and expand the influx of foreign labor. Their “yes” votes on S744 (the immigration bill) are the latest and most flagrant example.

Same blatant hypocrisy, different day.

Jerry Ritter


Hal McClendon

I don’t want to be a Republican anymore.

I’ve watched the Republican Party deteriorate over the past 10 years to the point that I’m ashamed to say I’m a Republican.

What does the GOP actually stand for? Right now, we seem to want to be the responsible party but know we’re going to get blamed for whatever happens. We are caving, but to what? I couldn’t tell you.

The GOP is now without dignity and willing to take scraps from the Democrats’ table so long as they can sit like dogs on the floor next to it. Their plans are designed around tactics, not common sense and strategy. These tactics are designed to avoid as much blame as possible for the mess they have created.

I feel like the Republican voters in America are being held hostage by the very people we voted for. These politicians hide behind the American flag pledging to uphold the Constitution, a Constitution our Founding Fathers wrote to protect us from a government just like the one we have today. If they don’t like something on it, they’ll just do a law to their liking such as passing the immigration bill.

That’s it. I’ve had enough.

Hal McClendon


David Olen Cross

Located in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Marion County is home to the state’s capital. The valley county’s major employers are government, agriculture, food processing, lumber, manufacturing and education. A very green place to live is the valley county, cloudy at times, where strong winter and spring storms blow in off the Pacific Ocean and drop an average annual rainfall of 35-inchs, it is a place that has a mild warm environment in the summer.

But over the last six years, a different type of storm cloud has been moving over this Willamette Valley county, a cloud that has nothing to do with the weather, it doesn’t seem to dissipate, a cloud that has changed the environment of a county that was once a safe place to live, call it a dark cloud of foreign national crime.

Some stark numbers from June 1st Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) data indicate the presence of this dark cloud; cases adjudicated in Marion County Circuit Courts sent 287 of the 1,198 foreign nationals (prisoners with immigration detainers) to serve time in the DOC prison system.

Putting the preceding numbers into perspective, Marion County’s 320 thousand residents are approximately 8.4 percent of Oregon’s population of 3.831 million, yet the county’s residents have suffered 24.0 percent of the foreign national crime; these statistics place Marion, the states fifth most populous county, number one in foreign crime taking into account all of the state’s 36 counties.

This dark storm cloud of crime, now well defined, has moved primarily from south to north up the valley and is formed by foreign national criminals from at least 22 countries; but the storm cloud of crime’s greatest element are 251 of the 287 foreign nationals now in DOC prisons who have declared their country of origin as Mexico; the cloud of crime being 87.4 percent Mexican nationals.

Marion County is literally the center of the storm of Mexican national crime in the state having 25.7 percent of the 977 Mexicans now in the DOC prison system.

The storm of crime that formed over nine-hundred miles plus to the south of Oregon’s border with California and moved north over the county has its victims: 28 drugs; 18 homicides; 39 rapes; 48 sex abuses; 22 sodomies; 15 kidnappings; 19 robberies 18 assaults; 7 burglaries; 5 driving offenses; 2 thefts; 1 vehicle theft and 29 other types crime.

This dark cloud of foreign national crime has victims who are more than just mere crime statistics; on June 16, 2007 Marion County Sherriff’s Deputy Kelley James Fredinburg, age 33, was killed in a traffic accident near Gervais while responding to a officer needs help call; Deputy Fredinburg’s alleged killer Alfredo De Jesus Ascencio, a Mexican national, has fled the country and is suspected by law enforcement authorities to be hiding in the area of Puacuaro, Michoacan, Mexico.

On April 16, 2012, Laurin Putnam, age 21, a resident of Keizer, was poisoned by a heroin overdose and died; Ms. Putnam’s alleged killers are Sergio Quezada Lopez, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, Jose Romo Gonzalez, Jose Aldan Soto and Julian Hernandez Castillo, all five of them Mexican nationals; they all await trial in a U.S. District Court in Portland in connection with the drugs that caused her death.

Evaluating the dark cloud of foreign national crime in the county, drug crimes may be the most destructive overall to the county’s residents.

Data from the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HITDA), 2013 Threat Assessment and Counter-Drug Strategy, report indicates most of the illicit drugs smuggled into the county are sourced from Mexican national drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).

Released June 4th, the Oregon Medical Examiner (OME) report indicated 19 deaths in 2012 that occurred in Marion County were caused by illicit drugs; the types of drugs by the numbers that killed 19 of the county’s residents last year were 10 from heroin, one from cocaine, 10 from methamphetamine or two from a combination of the preceding drugs; these drug death numbers equate to a 90 percent increase from 2011.

Beyond the human cost this storm of crime has left behind, there is an ongoing economic cost to the county’s residents who are state taxpayers; the cost for incarcerating 287 foreign nationals in the state’s prisons may approach 8.88 million dollars annually.

As recently as June 12th, the Marion County Correctional Facility (MCCF), the county jail, had 32 prisoners with federal immigration detainers incarcerated at the MCCF, a strong sign of those individuals may be in the country illegally; the annual cost to hold 32 foreign nationals at the jail is approximately 1.26 million dollars.

To dissipate the dark storm cloud of foreign national crime covering the county, the Marion County Commissioners and Marion County Sheriff’s Department should seek out any and all needed economic resources from both the state and federal government to fight foreign national crime in the county.

With so many inmates at the MCCF having federal immigration detainers on them, one place to start in seeking out economic resources would be for the Sheriff’s Department to open up jail beds and lease them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the stationing of ICE agents at the jail would send a strong message to foreign national criminals that the county is no sanctuary for criminal aliens.

To reduce future drug deaths in the county, to keep the Mexican drug cartels in-check, to keep the drug cartels from easily distributing cartel drugs, drugs that are killing far too many of the county’s residents, the Commissioners and Sheriff’s Department should seek out or provide any additional resources needed by the Marion County Street Crimes Unit to enable them to better to enforce the state’s drug laws in the county.

Finally, the Marion County Commissioners and Marion Sheriff’s Department should put aside any concerns about increased enforcement of the laws of the state offending the county’s Hispanic community, many whom are undocumented residents, because far too many of those in their midst are the dark cloud of foreign national crime that continues to cover this Willamette Valley county.

David Olen Cross of Salem writes on immigration issues and foreign national crime. He can be reached at docfnc@yahoo.com.

Nancy White

In Saturday’s Oregon Notes was a small article about automatic voter registration of everyone who has a driver’s license.

I have a couple of questions about this plan. How is this going to encourage people to vote? Why do the young, old and low-income need more encouragement than anyone else? Is the law saying these people are too stupid, too lazy, or too poor to figure out how to register? If this is the case, do we want them voting on important issues? I thought voting was a privilege, not a perk from getting a driver’s license.

People who are here illegally can now have driving privileges. They are breaking the law and are being rewarded. Are they now going to be able to vote? How can we be sure that only lawful, legally registered people will be voting?

Or, are these votes so important to the legislators getting re-elected that they don’t care how they get the votes? I would really like to know!

Nancy White

Sweet Home

Elizabeth Van Staaveren

The Statesman Journal’s June 23 PolitiFact, “What do ‘illegal aliens’ cost Ore.?” is very misleading.

It claims that fiscal costs incurred for the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens should not be counted a cost of illegal immigration, and on that basis wrongly tags the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s estimate “Mostly False.”

PolitiFact’s position is illogical. If the illegal immigrant couple had not entered the U.S., any children born to them would not be in the U.S. either. The presence of children born to illegal aliens in the U.S. is costly to taxpayers and should be included in any estimate of the fiscal cost of illegal immigration.

In addition, the education of U.S.-born children of illegal aliens is a service to the illegal-alien parents and thus a cost of illegal immigration.

FAIR’s study, “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Aliens on Oregonians,” is actually conservative in its estimates.

Note that the study deals only with the fiscal costs of illegal immigration. There are also social costs: Toleration of illegality threatens the rule of law and downgrades the value of citizenship. There are numerous other ill effects of illegal immigration on this country, too many to list here.