Letters and Op-Eds
In Oregon’s political order, do state lawmakers recognize the people’s primacy — or game the system to impose their own?
Oregon’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of referendum, to put laws passed by their Legislature to a public vote. In recent years, however, lawmakers have routinely saddled many laws with an “emergency clause,” which shields those laws from a referendum challenge and thereby nullifies the referendum right.
In the legislative session beginning Feb. 2, voters should demand an end to this cynical, undemocratic practice.
“No act shall take effect,” stipulates Oregon’s constitution, “until ninety days from the end of the session at which the same shall have been passed, except in case of emergency; which emergency shall be declared in ... the law.”
Why the wait? The main reason, writes Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, “is to provide adequate time for the public to gather sufficient signatures on petitions to refer a measure for the people to decide.”
How does that process work? Within 90 days of a legislative session’s end, citizens who wish to refer a new law must collect signatures of registered voters numbering at least 4 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. If they do, the law is suspended and Oregonians determine its fate at a future election, which is usually the next general election.
But back to that constitutional exception, the phrase “in case of emergency.” That empowers lawmakers, via an emergency clause, to declare a law so urgent that it must take effect earlier than the usual 90-plus days. If they do, Oregonians cannot seek to refer the law.
Webster’s defines “emergency” as “an urgent need for assistance or relief.” In recent sessions, however, emergency clauses have been attached to bills that even the wildest imaginations could not construe as addressing true emergencies. Examples include: bills to allow unionization of workplaces via “check-off cards” (2007); to credential undocumented immigrants for in-state university tuition (2013); and even to replace the U.S. Capitol statue of Oregon pioneer Jason Lee with one of the late U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield (2014).
How prevalent has been the recent use of the emergency clause? “Seventy-one percent of the bills enacted into law during the 2012 session,” writes Whitsett, “had an emergency clause attached that [made] them effective immediately upon their passage.” The clause’s frequent intent? Whitsett contends: “To block the constitutionally guaranteed right of the people to refer the new law.”
Would legislators actually employ the emergency clause to such cynical end?
Consider Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, a supporter of the undocumented immigrant driver card law passed by the Legislature in May 2013 that was referred to and overturned by voters in last November’s election. Last March, Johnson told The Oregonian that if voters rejected the law, then (in the newspaper’s words) “lawmakers could pass the same bill next session” and add “an emergency clause to allow the law to go into effect immediately.”
How to end such misuse of the emergency clause? Oregonians should pressure legislators to do this: Introduce for voters’ approval a constitutional amendment that requires any bill containing an emergency clause to receive two-thirds of the votes of the House and Senate to pass, and until its enactment, pledge to oppose any bill containing such clause unless, in their judgment, it addresses a true emergency.
When used for the intent of thwarting potential referenda, the emergency clause perverts the relationship between Oregonians and the legislators they elect to represent them. We need to restore that clause to its proper, limited role in lawmaking — and the voice of the citizen, as manifested in the referendum, to its paramount place in Oregon’s representative democracy.
Richard F. LaMountain, a Cedar Mill resident, served as a chief petitioner of the 2014 initiative, Measure 88, via which Oregon voters overturned the 2013 state law granting driver cards to undocumented immigrants.
In the Jan. 18 article “Stalled wages stump experts,” the authors listed a variety of factors depressing U.S. workers’ wages, but there was not one word about a major culprit. I’ll let another “expert” explain:
“The number of immigrants added to the labor force every year is of a magnitude not seen for over a century and threatens to further depress the wages of blue-collar Americans.”
So said Barack Obama in 2006, before he became president. Like so many other of his past pronouncements, he’s done a complete 180-degree turn with his recent massive amnesty-by-decree.
His 2006 warning is borne out by recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. As of November 2014, there were still 1.7 million fewer native-born workers employed than in 2007. But 2 million immigrants, legal and illegal, were added to the workforce in the same period.
I can’t blame anyone for wanting a better life, but the U.S. can no longer open its borders to the world’s dispossessed and downtrodden without major consequences. The president, most of the Oregon congressional delegation, business lobbies and unions (yes, unions) have thrown American workers under the bus with their ongoing drive to bring more immigrant labor to the United States.
As long as American workers and voters refuse to hold those perpetrators accountable, nothing will change.
Why do people who write on economics and the labor market, such as Tim Nesbitt ("Will new minimum wage laws overcome stagnation?" Jan. 2) overlook excessive immigration as a factor in stagnant and falling wages? He and the authors of the University of Oregon study described in "Aid to low-wage workers costs $1.7B a year," (Jan. 9) appear to be unaware of the effects of large-volume immigration on citizen workers.
An increase in the number of workers leads to lower wages — that's a basic economic theory clearly observable in real life...
Here in the U.S., employers can now hire illegal workers with impunity. Corporations use visas to legally bring in thousands of professional workers, claiming special expertise when these workers are less competent than the displaced citizens...
Many unemployed computer professionals who are citizens tell sad stories of being required to train their foreign replacements ...
The situation for less-educated citizens who seek work in unskilled occupations is desperate. An African American caller to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" recently expressed his frustration with the displacement of young blacks by illegal immigrant workers: "This is completely destroying the black community," he said.
The AFL-CIO is an empty shell compared to what it used to be in the days when it actually cared about the welfare of the average American worker. Now they and other unions have abandoned citizens for an international-workers-of-the-world approach...
Oregon's congressional delegation has a poor record on this subject. Anyone can view their grades online, ...
If current rates of immigration continue, 127 million more people will be added to the population by 2050....
Immigration policy affects nearly every aspect of life in the U.S. At present, it is the main trigger of population growth. Population size is a vital factor in preserving a healthy natural environment, and the current volume of immigration affects the level of wages possibly more than any other factor.
Elizabeth Van Staaveren, of McMinnville, is a longtime member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.
On language 'discrimination': The Oregonian recounts former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Edwin Peterson's 1994 report on reputed racial bias in Oregon's judicial system ("The Oregon bar takes a timely look at diversity," Jan. 12):...
Too few lawyers spoke a second language? How does this constitute discrimination?...
All nations need a single, standard means of communication. In America, that linguistic glue is English. To expect immigrants to use English is not "discrimination." It is common sense...
Professor Elliott Young’s article was long on emotion and short on intellect, attempting to sway the immigration debate according to who deserves the most sympathy, an appeal that amnesty enthusiasts never extend to citizens (President Obama got it half right on immigration, guest column, Dec. 11).
Young’s cliches disintegrate if we apply them to Americans who willfully break the law. For instance, should citizens have to “hide in the shadows” and “look over their shoulder” for committing crimes? Aren’t they only seeking a better life? And why should they ever be incarcerated if it separates them from their families? What kind of social justice makes people follow laws they don’t like?
Obviously, society would implode if citizens demanded the same exemptions from the law as do undocumented immigrants and their supporters, but these activists stubbornly ignore the plight of Americans suffering the effects of undocumented immigrant crime, representational theft, welfare costs, stolen jobs and depressed wages. Their form of social justice means shaming citizens into accepting mobocracy.
Would Young defend Americans if we illegally flooded into Mexico in the same numbers, demanding citizenship and government benefits? I doubt it. He would call that Yankee imperialism.
In a Dec. 23 guest viewpoint, Lorenzo Oloño bemoaned the rejection of Measure 88 in the November election. Measure 88 was defeated because the vast majority of voters understood the implications of giving an official state-issued driver card to individuals who could not prove they are legally in the country.
Nearly 1 million Oregonians voted “no” on Measure 88 — almost double the number of “yes” votes. Thirty-five of Oregon’s 36 counties voted it down. In 18 counties, the vote was more than 80 percent against it. Measure 88 lost in all five of Oregon’s congressional districts. A majority of Oregon Democrats, Republicans and independents voted against issuing driver cards to illegal aliens.
The Yes on Measure 88 campaign raised $611,000, outspending opponents roughly 10 to 1. One group, Latino Victory Project, with support from a Hollywood TV star, gave a $50,000 donation to the pro-driver-card measure.
Measure 88 was debated in public forums, in newspapers, on the radio, in the Voters’ Pamphlet and on TV. Voters had a good understanding of the issue and a clear choice.
Proponents of Measure 88 made many false and misleading statements. Proponents stated that the driver card could not be used to board a plane. That was not true. Nico Melendez, Western Transportation Security Administration spokesman, stated that the agency would accept it as proof of identity.
Proponents claimed that an applicant would be required to buy auto insurance. David House, public affairs spokesman for the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Department, refuted that claim. Nothing in Measure 88 would have required driver card applicants to have auto insurance.
Proponents falsely claimed that American citizens who lost their birth records would benefit from the Measure 88 driver card. Once again, the DMV refuted that argument.
When the Oregon Legislature tried to hijack the Measure 88 ballot title process from the state Supreme Court, The Register-Guard opined against it (“Don’t tinker with the title,” Feb. 28, 2014). A day earlier The Statesman-Journal named the Oregon House “Loser of the Week” for “mocking voters by interfering with a referendum on whether to let undocumented residents drive in Oregon.”
Oloño takes issue with the term “illegal alien.” It’s not a pejorative term — it is a descriptive term that is found in the nomenclature and case law of the federal government. Wikipedia’s definition: “An illegal alien is a non-citizen who is present in a country unlawfully or without the country’s authorization.” That’s far more descriptive than the politically correct term, “Undocumented.”
Oloño is a student at Willamette University, an expensive private institution. What if 1,000 “undocumented students” crowded into classrooms demanding to attend classes without going through the proper enrollment procedures or paying tuition? Would Oloño be so open-minded? Would he call them “undocumented Willamette University students?” Oloño writes that illegal aliens “already have taken the initiative of earning their place in the fabric of our communities.” No, they haven’t. If they are illegally in our country, they have not “earned” a right.
We are a nation founded on the rule of law. President John Adams said, “We are a nation of laws, not a nation of men.” Oloño seems to feel that certain people are above the law and they can pick and choose what laws they like and disobey those laws they don’t like. Acceptance of such a view would cause the United States to become a nation exactly like the ones from which illegal aliens flee.
Jim Ludwick of McMinnville is communications director of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.
Editor’s note: This guest column is in response to Lewis & Clark history professor Elliott Young’s Dec. 11 My View column, “President Obama got it half right on immigration.”
“Our immigration system is broken” ... we hear this line repeatedly, and it’s usually cited as a reason for granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
Rarely do we hear discussion of what broke our immigration system, but that’s a very important point to consider before attempting to “fix” the system.
Lax to no enforcement of current immigration laws is why we now have 11 million or more undocumented immigrants in the country, with politicians and open-borders advocates crying that our immigration system is broken and urging amnesties as a remedy. If the immigration laws had been adequately enforced over recent decades, we wouldn’t have a problem of illegal immigration or any arguments about amnesties.
Congress was persuaded in 1986 to grant a general amnesty. Proponents claimed it would be a one-time-only measure and that, henceforth, border security would prevent further undocumented immigration. However, enforcement promises were forgotten, and six more major amnesties followed, the last one in 2000. At least these were amnesties passed by Congress in its constitutional role as lawmakers.
Now, President Obama, in defiance of his inaugural oath to enforce the laws written by Congress, has ordered his appointees in the Department of Homeland Security to give amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants. And the claims that the Obama amnesty affects no more people than the number who gained amnesty under President Bush’s executive action of 1990 are false.
A careful analysis of the Bush amnesty of 1990 shows that no more than 50,000 people, at most, gained legal status. Also, Bush’s action was related to — and supplemented — an amnesty passed by Congress. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies calculates that the likely amnesty component of Obama’s 2014 unilateral edicts is 100 times larger than its supposed precedent. As he notes, “Some precedent.”
Why pretend to have an immigration system? We might as well dispense with the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the DHS if immigration laws are not to be enforced. Repeated amnesties have undermined immigration laws and devalued citizenship. Lax immigration law enforcement has led to depressed wages, unemployment and underemployment of citizens, rapid increases in population, overcrowding, and burdensome costs for social services.
Some order and stability could be restored by returning to enforcement of the laws against undocumented immigration.
In addition to undocumented immigration, there are other major immigration problems that need to be addressed, including excessive levels of legal immigration, fraud and abuse in visa programs, and refugee/asylum fraud. Each of these problems should be considered separately by Congress and given careful attention, not mixed in with amnesties in a huge “comprehensive” bill.
Amnesty advocates like to point out that 11 million undocumented immigrants can’t be deported en masse, but no one is calling for that. There are better ways to reduce the size of the undocumented immigrant population.
The federal E-Verify program should be made mandatory for all employers for current work forces as well as new hires. That would motivate undocumented immigrants to leave and discourage others from coming illegally. Publicly-funded benefits other than emergency medical care should not be given to undocumented immigrants. Congress should pass a law ending the practice of birthright citizenship, which arose through misreadings of the Constitution. Citizenship at birth should derive from that of the parents.
There’s an important basic question that too many people never seem to think about: What level of immigration is optimal for the U.S., considering the necessity for a balance of population, environment and quality of life? Immigrants accounted for 80.4 percent of population growth between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. The nation’s immigrant population, legal and illegal, hit a record 41.3 million in July 2013, an increase of 1.4 million since July 2010.
If immigration continues as the Census Bureau expects, the nation’s population will increase from 309 million in 2010 to 436 million in 2050 — an increase of 127 million (41 percent). That projected increase of 127 million is larger than the combined populations of Great Britain and France. It also exceeds the entire U.S. population in 1930.
Because of all these reasons, another amnesty is certainly not the way to fix our “broken immigration system.”
Elizabeth Van Staaveren of McMinnville is a longtime member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. She previously lived in the Washington, D.C., area, where she was employed by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Ted Hunt's letter (Dems should rein in Obama, Dec. 8) is utter nonsense.
Ted wants Republicans to hand their election win back to the Democrats and act as if it never happened. Good luck on that, Ted.
Ted says in his letter (concerning illegal immigration) that "the Republicans should ignore the situation and let the Democrats rein in this president, disavow his actions, and restore the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches." To borrow your letter's next line, Ted, why on Earth would the Democrats do this?
Mr. Hunt, you are either a Democrat or a dangerously naive Republican. If it is the latter, go to your computer and find Wikipedia. Once there, type into the search box "Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965." After reading the Wiki write-up on this legislation, you will understand exactly why Republicans cannot leave immigration to the Democrats. Democrats want America's whites to go the way of the dinosaurs, and they are using immigration, both legal and illegal, to do it. Read the piece and see if you don't agree.
The president has insulted the intelligence of “we the people” once more with the signing of his very controversial immigration changes. Many of us do not believe he actually has the authority to do any of what he has been doing without congressional approval.
His claim that the legal lawmakers are not doing their jobs is ridiculous. The way our Constitution was written, they are doing exactly what was intended. The president wants them to blindly rubber stamp the dumb and unfair things he wants.
Most Democrats seem to be totally willing to act like his sheep. Some have proved many times they should never have been in any position of power or control. One female in particular shows how stupid she is almost every time she opens her mouth.
I am so hopeful of changes coming in the new year. I am only one of many who voted for this president the first time. We were wooed with his campaign promises, but we were not dumb enough to vote for him twice. Many of us wonder why he hasn’t been impeached long before now.
Only time will tell if we have the people in place to follow through with doing what needs to be done and undo as much as possible of the wrong this administration has done. If they can’t or don’t, may God help us.
One more thought: I question just who “the American people” are that the president says want what he wants. Are any of them among those who have to pay the price for his wants?
Dear Mr. Wyden,
As an Oregonian living abroad in Russia for the last 20+ years, I have been able to look at our state and our country from the outside looking in...
Unfortunately, it appears there are interests within our government that want to restructure things in a way that was not intended by our founding fathers and the Constitution they so wisely planned out. Our system was built on fairness, trust and honesty by God-fearing, wise people.
President Obama, in his efforts to single-handedly create an amnesty program for illegal immigrants, has appeared to overstep his powers and authority by not working with Congress to agree on an approach...
...Circumstance, emotions or any other excuse as to why a person is illegally present in the US (or any other country for that matter) do not justify breaking the law. If you sneak under the fence in Russia, they deport you and you don't get to come back - ever. Not much discussion on that front. So why should we in the US allow the rules to be bent or overlooked as we do now?
If we collectively want to change immigration law or policy for a given reason, that should be left up to the people via our representatives and senators..
As a constituent, I respectfully ask you to stand up for what is just and right in terms of the way President Obama is addressing immigration...
I appreciate your time and consideration.