Oregon legislation

Legislation could prevent some deportations of legal immigrants

SALEM — State lawmakers are considering a change to sentencing law that could help prevent the mandatory federal deportation of legal immigrants convicted of gross misdemeanors.

The proposal is in an amendment to Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s bill:[HB 2355] to discourage racial profiling.

The change would reduce the maximum sentence for a Class A misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days. A 365-day sentence is one of several triggers for mandatory federal deportation of green card holders, refugees and other legal noncitizens. Other triggers are violent crimes and felonies, said Stephen Manning, a Portland immigration attorney.

The change would have no effect on illegal immigrants.

“This is an equity issue,” said state House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. “People should not be torn from their families and their communities because of an arbitrary difference between state and federal sentencing law for low-level, nonviolent misdemeanors.”

If adopted, the law would make Oregon uniform with Washington state and California, which already made the change in the last several years.

It would serve to strengthen the three states’ governors’ efforts to create “a zone of inclusivity” along the West Coast, Manning said.

Gov. Kate Brown has been defiant in the face of President Donald Trump’s executive orders limiting immigration and banning refugees, which also have been halted by the courts.

In February, Brown issued her own executive order barring the use of state resources to enforce federal immigration policy. Rosenblum subsequently sought to join Washington’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s immigration orders.

“Gov. Brown supports the amendment and looks forward to signing the racial profiling bill into law to better protect all Oregonians,” said Bryan Hockaday, the governor’s press secretary.

Kotek requested the sentencing change to be added to an amendment to a bill that requires police to collect data on race when they pull over drivers or pedestrians. The bill is meant to discourage racial profiling by law enforcement.

Kotek made the request after receiving feedback from community groups, law enforcement, immigration attorneys and others working on the racial profiling bill, said Lindsey O’Brien, a spokeswoman in the Speaker’s Office.

Felonies, certain violent crimes and 365-day or greater sentences for gross misdemeanors can trigger mandatory deportation under federal law. Class A misdemeanors in Oregon can range from falsifying information and writing a bad check to fourth-degree assault.

“Shifting to 364 days means our fellow Oregonians are not subject to that very drastic penalty,” Manning said.

As an immigration attorney, Manning said he sees legal immigrants deported for misdemeanor crimes all of the time.

“I couldn’t even count for you how many times,” he said. “It’s extremely painful and sad … and is a form of stigmatization against noncitizens.”

The House Judiciary Committee adopted the amendment and approved the overarching bill in March. No one addressed the significance of the sentencing change at that time.

Reps. Sal Esquivel of Medford, and Mike Nearman of Independence said they oppose the change because they see it as an attempt to circumvent federal law.

“To me that is a way to dodge the federal law,” said Esquivel, who is the son of a legal Mexican immigrant. “You’re on probation when you come here on a green card.”

The two Republican lawmakers co-sponsored legislation this session to outlaw sanctuary city designations and to make English the state’s official language.

Several Oregon cities, including Portland, have declared themselves sanctuary cities for immigrants, and the Trump administration has threatened to pull federal grants and other funding from those jurisdictions.

The bill is now before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means but won’t have another hearing until May, said Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass, chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Safety.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.
 

Advocates for illegal aliens and their tactics

 
Two bills before the Oregon Legislature in March 2017 illustrate the tactics of illegal alien advocates in using children to institutionalize acceptance of illegal immigration.  Their position is that anyone who opposes health care to children is mean and unfeeling.
 
The bills are HB 2726 and SB 558, with identical text.  They entitle “all children” in Oregon to state-paid health care.  We already have Medicaid and the Oregon Health Plan that cover indigent citizens and their children, so why add another plan?
 
Almost all of the statements submitted by interested parties at the Legislature’s hearings carefully avoid mention of the illegal status of the proposed recipients; they simply cite a figure of some 17,000 children estimated not to have regular access to medical care.
 
Who is pushing these bills? Both of the bills were pre-Session filed, meaning that they were probably filed at the request of someone or some organization, besides the sponsors named in the bill.  Named sponsors are: for HB 2726, Reps. Gilliam, Huffman, Monnes Anderson, Alonso Leon, Marsh and Senators Roblan and Boquist.  For SB 558, legislative sponsors are Senators Roblan, Kruse, and Boquist, Reps. Huffman, Alonso Leon, and Olson.
 
Public hearings were held early in the session, one immediately after the other; the House hearing first on Feb. 20 and the Senate next on Feb. 21.  This could be viewed as fast-tracking by the Legislative leadership to push through quickly a bill they expect would face public opposition if fully known and understood.
 
While the bill had little public notice, its advocates had advance, unlimited opportunity to prepare and present their testimony.  The result was predictable:  At the House hearing, some 43 supportive “exhibits” were presented but only one short statement from a private citizen that politely questioned the expenditure in light of the state’s financial situation.  At the Senate hearing, there was also a large number of supportive statements and no opposing statements.
 
At both hearings, most supporters of the bills were well-practiced lobbyists from organizations many of which are known for regularly speaking in favor of unlimited immigration and citizenship privileges for anyone who chooses to come into the U.S. and settle here, without regard to the wishes of, or effects on, citizens.
 
These organizations had representatives who submitted supportive statements to the House Health Care Committee for its hearing on HB 2726 on Feb. 20:
 
AFL-CIO Political Director
AFSCME Council 75
American Federation of Teachers Oregon
Asian Pacific-American Network of Oregon
Basic Rights Oregon
Cascade AIDS Project
CAUSA Oregon
Children First for Oregon
Coalition for a Healthy Oregon
Coalition of Communities of Color
Coalition of Community Health Clinics
Fair Shot for All Coalition
Family Forward Oregon
Health Share of Oregon
Human Services Coalition of Oregon
Keny-Guyer, Rep. Alissa, representing Rep. Vic Gilliam
League of Women Voters of Oregon
Legacy Health (a health care provider)
Moda Health 
Multnomah County Office of Government Relations
Northwest Health Foundation
Northwest Human Services
Northwest Workers’ Justice Project
Oregon Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs
Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs
Oregon Community Health Workers  
Oregon Education Association
Oregon Health Equity Alliance
Oregon Latino Health Coalition
Oregon Law Center
Oregon Nurses Association
Oregon Primary Care Association
Oregon Public Health Institute
Oregon School-Based Health Alliance
Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon
Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, Oregon’s Farmworker Union
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon
Portland Jobs with Justice
Portland State University, student
Service Employees International Union, Oregon State Council
United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 555
United Oregon
YWCA of Greater Portland
 
Many of the same organizations listed above again presented “exhibits” at the next day’s hearing by the Senate on SB 558.  Also, these organizations which did not make statements for the House hearing, did so for the Senate hearing. 
 
Coalition of Local Health Officials
Oregon Center for Public Policy
Siskiyou Community Health Center
Valley Family Health Care
Wallace Medical Center
 
 
The medical groups can hardly be blamed for seeking public funds to help their work because they’re daily confronted with far greater numbers of people needing medical care than would be here if immigration were controlled as it should be.
 
The answer to this medical care problem as well as the answer to the chaos now surging in the nation is to reduce immigration levels to sustainable numbers.  We are in dire need of a moratorium on immigration for an extended period because for several decades now, the levels have been far too high, overwhelming the country’s capacity to provide an acceptable quality of life for citizens. Our natural environment is dangerously degraded because of overpopulation, and at the same time, all social services are faltering from too-high demand.
 
Citizens who understand immigration issues and work for strict immigration law enforcement or reductions in immigration are often labeled haters and all-around bad guys.  It is fair to call out opponents of immigration controls, point out the fallacies of their arguments and question their motives as well. 
 
Politicians and political groups advocating for amnesties and benefits to illegal aliens consistently oppose efforts to pass mandatory E-Verify requirements for all employers, a step that would soon effectively stop illegal immigration.  Opponents claim the federal E-Verify program is not ready or is too prone to errors that hurt workers.  Such claims have no merit, as the program is not new, having been started in 1997 and now with some 20 years of successful operation.  
 
The basic dividing question is:  Should the U.S. continue to be a nation or should we have open borders and admit any and all persons who may wish to live here?  Sensible people realize the dangers of open borders, and most prefer to continue as a nation.  European countries are showing vividly what happens when there are inadequate limits to immigration.
 
Too many citizens are naïve and quick to sympathize when media highlight illegal immigrants as blameless and forced to live “in the shadows.”  Immigration laws exist to protect the safety and well-being of citizens, and if these laws are not respected and enforced, the U.S. will swiftly be subsumed by the millions around the world who would like to live here.
 
Aspiring immigrants should work to improve their own countries instead of fleeing them.  The U.S. has given generous financial aid and technical assistance to poor countries continuously for over 70 years; it’s time for them to help themselves now.
 
News reports:
 

'Anti-Sanctuary' Legislation Brewing in Oregon

House Bill 2921 would repeal Oregon’s sanctuary state law and mandate that Oregon law enforcement agencies assist in federal immigration enforcement. The bill would also prohibit cities and counties from establishing sanctuary protections.

But Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican from Independence, who is one of the bill’s chief sponsors, says he doesn’t expect HB 2921 to receive a hearing, instead Nearing is working on a petition to make the repeal a ballot measure to put before the voters in 2018.

Nearman says he doesn’t like that the state’s sanctuary law prohibits Oregon law officers from enforcing federal immigration laws. “I think that we just need to be able to enforce the laws just for their own sake just because we don’t need illegal people running around our country,” he tells Eugene Weekly.

Meanwhile, on March 13, the Eugene City Council voted unanimously to adopt a sanctuary-type ordinance to protect immigrants and Eugene residents. The “Protections for Individuals” ordinance prohibits city staff and operations from utilizing “city resources for purposes of enforcing federal immigration law unless related to a criminal offense,” according to a city news release.

Eugene Human Rights Commission Chair Ken Neubeck says the ordinance was passed in case any changes — such as the ones Nearman proposes — are made to the state’s sanctuary law. “This is an ordinance, not a resolution, resolutions are much less powerful and ordinances are permanent.”

The ordinance, which goes into effect 30 days after the vote, includes a provision that forbids the city from tracking people’s political, social, religious activities. Neubeck says this is a preventative measure in case the federal government attempts to create a registry.

Nearman says states should be “responsible for everything they can possibly be responsible for.” The framers of the Constitution “envisioned a federal government that had limited powers and everything else was left to the people,” he adds.

Contrary to the small-government ideology of the Republican Party, relinquishing the state’s sanctuary law would give more power to the federal government. Section two of the proposed bill states: “A law enforcement agency of the state of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state may use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

Illegal immigration, Nearman says, is a problem. “I think by some estimates it costs the state of Oregon $1.2 billion a year for illegal aliens,” he says. “I’m on the budget committee for my school district, and we spend a lot of money to teach students who don’t speak English.”

 Nearman credits that estimate to “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Aliens on Oregonians,” a report published by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The report claims Oregonians pay $1 billion per year for “illegal aliens and their children,” and cites one of its own prior studies. One resource listed in the study cites “constitutional scholars” without listing any names.

FAIR is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FAIR’s founder John Tanton corresponded with a FAIR donor suggesting that she “read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to ‘give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life’ — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor’s theories on the Jews,” according to the SPLC.

SPLC has documented more than twenty years of Tanton’s ties with “Holocaust deniers, a former Klan lawyer and leading white nationalist thinkers, including Jared Taylor (who wrote in 2005, ‘When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western civilization — any kind of civilization — disappears’).”

Asked if Nearman knew about FAIR being a designated hate group, he replied, “I don’t put much stock in the Southern Poverty Law Center. The bar to being designated as a hate group is pretty low for them. I stand by my data.”

Nearman adds that Oregon needs guest workers. “I’m a software engineer by trade, so my last job, we had people who were in some status of legal-ness working, but they weren’t citizens or anything like that, and that’s fine,” he says. “We do that as we have needs and as we can vet people.”

Money is also a concern when relocating Syrian immigrants to the U.S., according to Nearman, who suggests the federal government is spending 12 times as much bringing refugees to the United States as it would cost to resettle them “somewhere in the Middle East.”

On Feb. 15, Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson released a statement saying she was “appalled” at the House Republicans’ proposed legislation: “At a time when we should be extending a hand of compassion to those fleeing violence or hardship, HB 2921 would instead prevent the state or local communities from choosing to protect their residents.”

Nearman and the bill’s only other sponsor, Rep. Sal Esquivel, a Republican from Medford, are also pursuing a ballot initiative on the issue. They gathered 1,346 signatures on Oct. 20, surpassing the minimum requirement of 1,000 to get a ballot title. A total of 88,184 signatures would be needed for the petition to be placed on the ballot to be decided on by voters.

Nearman did not bring up the petition during an interview. An additional request for a comment was not answered.

EW reached out to Rep. Sal Esquivel on Feb. 23. An unsigned email from his account responded, “Thank you but at this time Rep. Esquivel is not available for an interview with Eugene Weekly.” A second email asking Esquivel once more for an interview did not receive a response.

Bill would provide health care for all kids

More than 17,000 children are currently excluded from the Oregon Health Plan because of their residency status.

To address this, Governor Kate Brown testified Monday before the House Committee on Health Care in support of a bill known as “Cover All Kids.” If passed, House Bill 2726 would extend health care coverage through the Oregon Health Plan to all Oregon children, expanding legislation passed in 2012.

"It is our duty to ensure that our youngest Oregonians have the tools to grow into healthy adults with access to education, health care, and a bright future," Brown said. "Oregon children should have the opportunity to be healthy and ready to learn, and Oregon families should feel confident that a medical event will not dramatically change the trajectory of their lives."

Brown has included the expansion in her proposed budget, allocating $55 million in General Fund money. Brown highlighted the importance of all children having health care coverage in her inaugural address.

Uninsured children are much more likely than insured children to forgo necessary medical care due to costs, and more likely to have unmet medical needs, according to a report by the Campaign for Children’s Health Care.

Additionally, the Oregon Latino Health Coalition cites insured children are 9.7 percent less likely to drop out of high school and 5.5 percent more likely to graduate from college.

The bipartisan legislation currently facing the Oregon State Legislature is co-sponsored by Representatives Alonso Leon, Gilliam, Hernandez, Huffman and Olson and by Senators Boquist, Monnes Anderson, and Roblan.

Fatima Preciado, 18, a Portland State University student and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, was one of the kids who did not qualify due to her residency.

“Because my siblings and I lacked proper health insurance, we were denied the right to live a normal childhood,” Preciado said in a statement. "Fear and worry instead consumed my everyday childhood.

"My mother struggled severely when it came to purchasing my sister’s medication," she said. "There were times when my sister went weeks without medication, causing her to suffer severe uncontrollable epileptic seizures.”

The Senate Committee on Health Care will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 558, a companion bill, on at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 in Hearing Room B.

Brown: Extend Medicaid to more than 17,000 kids

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown spoke Monday in support of a bipartisan proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to the more than 17,000 children currently ineligible due to their immigration status.

Brown — whose two-year budget included the estimated $55 million the coverage is expected to cost — is joined in her support for the measure by nearly 40 advocacy groups, health care providers and unions.

“It is our duty to ensure that our youngest Oregonians have the tools to grow into healthy adults, with access to education, health care and a bright future,” Brown said during a meeting of the state House Health Care Committee.

It’s a departure from a proposal by top Oregon budget writers to cut Medicaid coverage to roughly 355,000 adults to help fill the state’s $1.8 billion budget hole.

People who joined the program under the Affordable Care Act’s 2014 eligibility expansion would lose coverage.

Advocates, however, characterize the measure, called Cover All Kids, as building on strides the state has made over the years to increase access to health care coverage for children. Lawmakers voted in 2009 to expand kids’ access to Medicaid and subsidized health insurance policies. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act allowed Oregon to expand its Medicaid program to kids in families with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The coverage only applied to lawfully present children, however.

Still, it’s estimated about 2 percent of children in Oregon remain uninsured, the majority of whom are ineligible for coverage because they’re in the country illegally. House Bill 2726, along with its counterpart in the Senate, would extend Medicaid coverage to anyone under age 19 with family incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level — $48,720 annually for a family of two or $73,800 for a family of four — regardless of immigration status.

Medicaid programs in California, Washington state, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., already cover children in the country illegally.

The measure’s sponsors include Republicans Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles, Rep. Andy Olson of Albany and Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas. Democratic sponsors include Sen. Arnie Roblan of Coos Bay, Rep. Diego Hernandez of Portland, Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham, Rep. Teresa Alonso León of Woodburn and Rep. Pam Marsh of Ashland.

Huffman told the audience at Monday’s hearing the bill makes sense both morally and economically.

“Morally, because I have always advocated for supporting our most vulnerable citizens,” he said. Economically, because healthy kids miss less school and their parents miss fewer days of work.

Former Republican Rep. Vic Gilliam also submitted testimony in support of the measure, which he wrote would not be just another government “entitlement” program but would strengthen communities.

Linda Roman, director of health policy and government relations for the Oregon Latino Health Coalition, said in an interview the issue boils down to values.

“I think across party lines, across chambers of the House and the Senate, we all believe that every child in our state on day one of school needs to be prepared and ready to learn,” she said. “I think our legislators in Oregon really understand that and embrace that.”

Even though the coverage would cost the state an estimated $55 million over the next two years, Roman said it would save money in the long run. Access to health care prevents treatable illnesses from becoming expensive health care crises, she said. Further, Roman said children with insurance perform better in school, are more likely to graduate high school and contribute more in taxes later in life.

“We’ve seen that it works,” she said. “It saves money.”

All of the written testimony submitted to the House Health Care Committee ahead of its hearing Monday urged lawmakers to support the measure. Organizations included the Oregon Primary Care Association, Basic Rights Oregon, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance and several others. Insurance carrier Moda Health and health systems Legacy Health and Providence Health System also voiced support.

Monday’s session was a public hearing; a vote was not held. The Senate Health Care Committee will host a hearing on the measure Tuesday afternoon. Brown is not scheduled to testify at that hearing, but state Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Republican from Roseburg, and Koblan will speak in support of the bill, according to the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.

Plan to provide free health care to unauthorized immigrant kids in Oregon draws praise, criticism

SALEM — When an errant baseball hit her in the face years ago, Fatima Preciado’s lip split. Soon, the 8-year-old’s cut became infected.

Preciado’s mother tried to clean the cut with rubbing alcohol and heal it with ointments, but never took her to a doctor. Without health insurance, those types of “house remedies” were often the only medical treatment her family could turn to, Preciado said.

Norma Baltazar says she struggled for years to get dental health care for her young son, Raul. Finally, when a molar in the back of his mouth grew too painful, she rushed him to the emergency room. Without health insurance, she had to pay $900 to have the tooth removed.

Both Preciado and Baltazar are unauthorized immigrants, having separately come to the United States from Mexico more than a decade ago.

Today, Preciado is an 18-year-old Portland State University student and a so-called “Dreamer,” having secured a work permit and deportation deferral under former President Obama’s DACA program.

Baltazar, a Salem house cleaner, brought Raul to America when he was only 3, making him an unauthorized immigrant as well. She’s since had another child, a daughter, who, by virtue of her birth of U.S. soil, is a legal U.S. citizen.

Now, both women are advocating for a new state law, dubbed “Cover All Kids” by supporters, that would extend government-­funded health insurance in Oregon to many unauthorized immigrants under the age of 19.

The proposal would give government-funded health insurance to an estimated 17,600 unauthorized immigrants, at a cost of $55 million in the biennium that starts July 1. Critics blast the concept and the price tag, especially given state government’s cash crisis.

But supporters say it’s a humane and sensible idea.

“My mom always was scared that I would get hurt or get sick because we didn’t have insurance,” Preciado said of her childhood. “I just wanted to play.

“Kids don’t worry about getting hurt, they don’t understand,” she added.

The proposed policy would let those young immigrants receive free health insurance through the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid, if their families make less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

That’s the same eligibility requirement as that for an Oregon minor who is a legal resident now, and it translates to an annual income of $73,000 for a family of four. The coverage would apply only to the unauthorized immigrant children of the household, not the adults.

Faces opposition

The proposal is backed by Gov. Kate Brown, House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat, a contingent of Democratic and Republican state legislators, and many Oregon health care providers.

Similar policies are in place in California, Washington, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Still, the costly proposal in Oregon faces significant headwinds this session as the state must close a $1.8 billion budget gap — a hole that’s in large part the result of the growing cost of the Oregon Health Plan for legal Oregon residents.

Senate Bill 558 and House Bill 2726 would make 17,600 noncitizens newly eligible for the Health Plan, according to early estimates.

The state would have to cover the full cost of their health insurance, a projected $55 million in the 2017-19 budget. That’s different than for the rest of Oregon’s 1 million-strong Medicaid population, where the federal government picks up most of the tab.

The policy and its cost anger opponents of illegal immigration.

“We have a state that thinks it has a $1.8 billion budget gap and yet we’re considering giving more state benefits to thousands of illegal immigrants,” said Jim Ludwick of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. “It boggles the mind.”

Ludwick said his group doesn’t want “any harm to come to children.” But, he added, the bill, if passed, “could well be the foot in the door” for Oregon Health Plan coverage to be extended to unauthorized adult immigrants as well.

Despite progressive stances on many social issues, Oregon voters have sometimes resisted policies favoring unauthorized immigrants. In 2014, they thrashed, by a 2-to-1 ratio, a proposal to grant them short-term driving licenses.

“Emergency clauses”

SB 558 and HB 2726 both contain “emergency clauses,” however. That means that, if they pass, they’ll go into effect immediately and couldn’t be referred to voters.

Supporters say the cost of expanding Medicaid coverage to unauthorized minors would be a smart investment for the state. It would mean they could get more preventative health care, reducing their need for expensive emergency care, and allowing them to be more successful in school and later life.

“Oregon children should have the opportunity to be healthy and ready to learn, and Oregon families should feel confident that a medical event will not dramatically change the trajectory of their lives,” Gov. Brown told the House Health Care Committee on Monday.

Rep. John Huffman, a Republican from The Dalles, said the insurance expansion “makes sense morally and economically.”

“Covering kids up front saves us money down the road,” he added.

Patchwork of care

Both Preciado and Baltazar on Monday described a complicated patchwork of health care options available now to unauthorized immigrants. Many of them don’t or can’t get health insurance through work. They aren’t eligible for the subsidies to help people buy their own health insurance policies on the exchanges set up by Obamacare.

But unauthorized immigrants can receive primary medical care in some public schools and, for a fee, at 200 “safety net” community health centers around the state.

Hospitals, meanwhile, are required by federal law to provide free emergency care to all people, regardless of their residency status, when a patient is at risk of dying, losing a limb or is pregnant.

Many nonprofit groups also help unauthorized immigrants cover their regular health and dental care costs or help raise money for expensive treatments.

For example, Baltazar said Raul was recently found to have a heart condition that could eventually require surgery. She said she’s already identified a church-affiliated nonprofit that might help pay for the operation.

But, she added: “It still worries me. There’s no guarantee.”

“I don’t want (Raul) to worry about how we will pay for it,” Baltazar said. “Any child deserves to have a healthy life.”

Preciado said her older sister is intellectually disabled and prone to epileptic seizures. There were times during her childhood when the family, for weeks, couldn’t afford the daily medication her sister needed, Preciado recalled.

“There would be nights when I would awake from my mother’s frightened screams as she watched my eldest sister uncontrollably experience an epileptic seizure,” she said. “It was very traumatic.”

License to discriminate?

Many discussions about unequal justice in the United States focus on the disproportionate number of African Americans — particularly young black men — who end up in our jails and prisons. Our review of 5.5 million state court records showed that same pattern in Oregon. But another set of data also jumped out: a spike in driving violations among Latino drivers.

Our search into the cause of that disparity lead us back to 2001, when two men — Bob Terry and Jim Ludwick — were on opposite sides of an old argument that had taken a dramatic turn.

This week we explore a decision made more than a decade ago and its consequences, which are only now being fully understood.


Bob Terry, former head of the state nursery growers association, says agricultural workers need to be able to legally drive, regardless of their immigration status.

Bob Terry flew home from Washington, D.C., in early September 2001, confident that a long-negotiated immigration reform deal was imminent. Then a member of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, Terry had a stake is making sure his members' employees — many of whom he guessed had entered the country illegally — had more than job security. They needed a path to citizenship.

"I was sitting down with Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein — just a whole host, including Cesar Chavez's son — to try and get the immigration bill worked through," said Terry, a Republican who later became a Washington County commissioner. "And it was ready to go. It was going to go that Friday. And then 9/11 happened."

Stories saturated the media of how 19 men had come into the United States from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Egypt and boarded planes using illegally obtained driver's licenses. It was just the fuel Jim Ludwick needed.

Ludwick had moved to Oregon from California three decades earlier and bought 40 acres in the hills west of McMinnville, where he built a house with windows to look out on the Yamhill Valley.

In 2000, after retiring from a career as a pharmaceutical salesman, Ludwick launched Oregonians for Immigration Reform to lobby for laws that would make Oregon a less-welcoming place for undocumented immigrants and immigrants who didn't assimilate. At the time, Oregon didn't require residents to show proof of legal immigration status when applying for a driver's license. Ludwick made changing that the priority of his new group.

Lawmakers, however, didn't want to be seen talking to him at first.

"A senator would walk by, and I'd introduce myself and tell him why I was there: 'I'm opposed to driver's licenses for illegal aliens,' " Ludwick said. "And he'd say, 'I agree with you, but it's too hot of an issue.' And that's the way it was for the first couple of years."

What finally changed the conversation wasn't a shift in attitude about Latino residents, but a post-9/11 focus on border security.

The federal Real ID Act of 2005 required states to restrict driver's licenses to those who could prove they were here legally. Many states, including California, already required proof of legal status. Most others moved toward compliance, while some — like Utah — opted for a two-tiered system, granting formal licenses to those who could produce legal documentation, and a limited drivers' card (which can't be used as federal identification or to board a plane) to those who could not.

'Are we really doing the right thing?'

Oregon grappled with the issue until November 2007, when Gov. Ted Kulongoski issued an executive order calling on state legislators to require that residents prove their legal immigration status to obtain or renew a license.

At a Senate hearing the following February, during the short session, Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford, complained the bill had been pushed through with little debate and no chance to offer amendments. A short session — normally reserved for budget adjustments and minor legislative matters, wasn't the time to address serious concerns. And this bill, he said, raised serious "moral and ethical issues."

"I haven't heard anything that makes me feel safe tonight with what we're doing here tonight. The people we are affecting are our friends and neighbors," said Bates, who died last year. "Think long and carefully. Do we really need to do this tonight? And are we really doing the right thing?"

While a few Democrats, including then-Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, opposed the bill, most joined with Republicans and overwhelmingly agreed it was the right thing.

Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, a Democrat representing an estimated 9,700 noncitizen Latino residents of Gresham, voted for it. "The lax standard of driver's licensing in Oregon has made our state a target for criminal organizations and more vulnerable to identity fraud," she told the Capitol Press.

Senate President Peter Courtney, a Salem Democrat whose district included Woodburn and its estimated 6,300 noncitizen Latino residents, did too. Jeff Merkley, then House Speaker who was running for federal office, cast his vote in favor.

Immigrant rights groups turned out more than 15,000 people to rallies at the state Capitol protesting the bill, to no avail. The new law resulted in the most profound change for Latino families in decades. Few lawmakers seemed to forsee the implications of preventing up to 83,000 undocumented workers from getting or renewing their licenses.

"They look at the polling, they read the tea leaves and connect it to their own political careers. It's all about their seat, self-preservation, keeping the majority in the Legislature" said Andrea Williams, executive director of Causa, a Salem-based nonprofit working for immigration rights. "A lot of decisions came down to Gov. Kulongoski. And he made the political decision to restrict drivers' licenses."

Activists like Williams knew Republicans would be less likely to support their cause. But the eagerness of Democrats to join them was a stinging surprise. "Democrats are not being bold on our issues, but they'll at least talk to us," she said. "And then on the driver's license issue, they completely betrayed us."

Kulongoski, contacted at his home, declined to comment. Merkley did not reply to requests for comment.

Monnes Anderson and Courtney said the federal legislation allowed for a driver's cards, like those used in Utah at the time. Both assumed the Legislature would quickly adopt that system in Oregon.

Five years later, they tried.

 KATE WILLSON - Jim Ludwick said it was suprisingly easy to find support for their successful effort to deny driving priveleges to undocumented immigrants.

COURTESY PHOTO: KATE WILLSON - Jim Ludwick said it was suprisingly easy to find support for their successful effort to deny driving priveleges to undocumented immigrants.

Reversing course

Restrictions of driving privileges for undocumented immigrants, which swept the nation after the Real ID Act of 2005, have begun to soften. Today, 12 states and the District of Columbia extend privileges to undocumented residents. They include Washington, California and Nevada.

Oregon lawmakers also tried to reverse course. In May 2013, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed into law a bipartisan bill allowing for a driver's card distinct from the formal license that would allow people to drive legally without proving citizenship.

The logic was that it would ensure drivers knew how to drive and allow them to get insurance, which most agencies refused to sell without a valid license. But the card couldn't be used for federal purposes such as to board a plane.

Ludwick saw Kitzhaber's actions differently: "He wants to allow people to legally drive to jobs they can't legally have, hired by companies that can't legally hire them," Ludwick said.

Within hours, Oregonians for Immigration Reform vowed to take the matter to voters. Privately, Ludwick didn't think they had a chance of collecting enough signatures to get the referendum on the fall ballot. "How do you collect 70,000 to 80,000 signatures in three months?" he said. "If there was a tote board in the rotunda giving odds, we'd be 1,000-to-1 underdogs."

They called on Suzanne Gallagher, then chairwoman of the Republican Party. She promised to get signature sheets to every Republican in the state. Meanwhile, Ludwick and his supporters fanned out to county and state fairs. Ludwick said people were eager to sign.

"They would grab the sheets out of your hand," he said. "We got signatures from places I didn't even know existed. We got 'em from 134 different communities."

The group had more than grass-roots support. Conservative Nevada businessman Loren Parks shelled out $93,172 over five weeks to pay signature gatherers. In the end, the campaign turned in 58,291 valid signatures, squeaking by with a buffer of 149.

In the November 2014 election, voters crushed Measure 88, the Legislature's driving card law, by a 2-1 margin. Every county except Multnomah voted against retaining the law.

"That stunned us," Courtney said. "We didn't think that could happen."

Courtney's support of Measure 88 became an issue in his 2014 re-election campaign, as he battled claims that he supported giving driving privileges to drunken drivers and criminals living here illegally. "It was probably the ugliest racial issue I've seen since I lived in the South," said Courtney, who was re-elected that year with 54 percent of the vote.

Mike Nearman, a software engineer from Independence, said he wore out two pairs of shoes volunteering 11-hour shifts at the Oregon State Fair to oppose Measure 88.

He said his efforts were targeting people who didn't come into the United States legally.

"I wish everyone could live under the freedoms I enjoy. I don't begrudge anyone, but we just need to do it legally," he said. "What we have right now is not the best and the brightest, but the boldest and the baddest, whoever's willing to jump the fence."

Nearman went on to join the board of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and win election to the state House of Representatives. He's advocating for a repeal of Oregon's restriction on local police from enforcing immigration law.

Gilbert Carrasco, a Willamette Law School professor and former civil rights litigator for the federal Department of Justice, said the legislation to require drivers to provide proof of legal status to obtain a license doesn't make sense.

"The argument was, 'They shouldn't be here,'" he recalled. "Well, they're here. They're not going anywhere. Now we're in a situation where people are unlicensed, they haven't been tested" by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

And many are uninsured.

"It hurts the people who voted for that law. That's the irony," he said. "At some point, if the Legislature, if the people, don't revisit it, I think the courts will."

You end up in trouble

Advocacy groups haven't given up on the concept of a driver's card, and they continue to pin down lawmakers on their positions.

Sen. Monnes Anderson, for one, would support it. "Obviously, we're all better off when everyone who is driving a car that is licensed and insured," she said.

Sen. Courtney is frustrated by the Legislature's inability to respond to the voters' rejection of the driver's card. "We are really struggling to break through on that," he said.

Washington County commissioner Terry watched the 2008 legislative vote to restrict licenses and the 2014 referral to vote down driver cards with frustration. A prominent and active Republican, he sees the past 16 years as a wasted opportunity and isn't optimistic about the future of immigration reform in Oregon.

"As a state, we were foolish and didn't accomplish anything," he said. "We're not really managing that issue. And any time you don't manage an issue, you end up in trouble."

INVESTIGATEWEST/PMG

INVESTIGATEWEST/PMG


TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown faces a legal challenge by immigrants who are fighting a 2014 public vote against drivers' cards that they say violated their 14th Amendment rights.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown faces a legal challenge by immigrants who are fighting a 2014 public vote against drivers' cards that they say violated their 14th Amendment rights.

Driver's license law tested in court

During last year's election, Gov. Kate Brown reiterated her support for granting driving privileges regardless of immigration status. "I've always supported this right and always will," her campaign said in a statement to the advocacy group Causa.

Despite her personal view, Brown is the top elected state official, and as such was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in November 2015 by five undocumented longtime residents who claimed that the 2014 public vote against drivers' cards violated their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. The vote was "motivated by racial animus against persons from Mexico and Central America," the lawsuit claimed.

Brown was forced to defend a law she opposed, as the state argued it couldn't invalidate a law Oregon voters passed, or force implementation of a bill that never went into effect.

Six months later, in May 2016, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken dismissed the lawsuit, which is now pending appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

 
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OFIR launches billboard campaign

Alert date: 
2017-02-06
Alert body: 

OFIR would like everyone to know and understand what a sanctuary policy means.

While the argument over the sanctuary status of college campuses or cities goes on, it's important to understand that Oregon is actually a sanctuary state.  What does that mean?  Find out more.

OFIR's billboard campaign helps to educate the public about the fiscal burden of being a sanctuary state.
 

Delivering on immigration

As he planned his improbable ascent, a peculiar election result from a small Western state might have caught Donald Trump’s eye. In 2014, Oregonians voted nearly 2-1 against a ballot measure that would have allowed the state to issue driver’s cards to people who could not prove legal residency in the United States. The proposal was a modest public-safety measure, but most voters saw it as an accommodation of illegal aliens and said no — hell no. Trump saddled that same emotional response and rode it into the White House. Now he must deliver.

The president made a start last week. He took executive action to start construction on a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, a step toward fulfillment of one of his most frequently made, and most loudly echoed, campaign promises. And he moved to cut federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” striking a blow against the same political impulse that Oregon voters rejected in 2014: the impulse that crafts humane and pragmatic policies that are perceived as creating more space in American society for undocumented immigrants.

How these initial steps will be completed is far from clear. The cost and configuration of the wall — in some places, it’s likely to be more like a fence — are not known. Trump insists that Mexico will pay for the wall, an idea firmly rejected by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Various ideas for financing the wall have been advanced, including a 20 percent tax on goods imported to the United States from Mexico. Such a tax would be paid by American consumers, not Mexicans.

Pena Nieto had planned to meet with Trump this week, but the event was canceled after Trump reiterated his demand that Mexico pay for the wall. Trump will need to guard against creating problems that would prove far more costly than a border wall. A tax on exports to the United States would affect 80 percent of Mexico’s trade, damaging the country’s economy. Humiliating Pena Nieto, who is already politically unpopular, could open the door to a disruptive successor. Economic instability, political turmoil or both in Mexico would damage U.S. economic interests, create security concerns and trigger higher rates of illegal immigration.

The crackdown on sanctuary cities is similarly vague. The Trump administration has not defined what a sanctuary city is, but they come in several varieties. There are even sanctuary states, including Oregon. Many state and local governments, or the heads of their police agencies, have said that police will not inquire about the immigration status of people they contact. The aim is to keep the police from taking on the responsibilities of federal immigration officers, and to maintain trust among immigrant populations. Such policies involve setting priorities for public safety, not defiance of federal law.

In other cases, sanctuary cities decline to detain people suspected of being illegal immigrants until federal immigration agents can take custody of them. This is often due to a shortage of jail space or a lack of federal reimbursement for incarceration costs, not a refusal to cooperate in the enforcement of immigration laws.

Few jurisdictions that have labeled themselves sanctuaries are actively working to frustrate the enforcement of immigration laws — they’re just not cooperating to varying degrees. The Trump administration will have to draw the line between defiance and non-cooperation, and some grants can’t be withheld without congressional approval. Too far-reaching a cutoff would face legal action by cities or states on grounds that the U.S. government can’t compel them to spend their money to enforce federal laws.

Trump understood the emotional power of the immigration issue better than his rivals. But delivering on his promises will require coherent, constructive policies. Devising them will prove harder than tapping a vein of anger and resentment.


 

Law enforcement hands tied by Oregon Legislature

In 1987, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill making it against the law for our law enforcement officers to enforce the law.  It's time to put an end to this ridiculous loophole known as state statute 181A.820.

How many illegal aliens do you suppose are in Oregon and the only "crime" they have committed is to be in our country illegally - thus breaking our immigration laws?

Think about that for a moment...

Illegal aliens often come to this country illegally to work - which is in violation of our employment laws.  And, they are likely hired by an employer who knows full well that they are an illegal alien.

But, before securing employment, they must first acquire identification.  I hear that one can be bought on the streets for about $75.  It's not a quality ID, but it's enough to pass for the willing employer.   Isn't that against the law - to buy and sell fake identification?  And, whose identity is being stolen?  Yours, mine - or, your grandchild's?

Now, the only in the country illegally, illegal alien needs a way to get to their new found job.  They have a buddy that gets them a car which they proceed to drive to work - without a license or insurance.  That too, is against the law! 

So, please explain how it's a necessity to forego enforcement of our immigration laws to protect those that are only in our country illegally!

The Sheriffs of Oregon have released a statement - I encourage you to read it - then call your elected officials and tell them to repeal State Statute 181A.820

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