illegal immigration

Theresa May interview: 'We’re going to give illegal migrants a really hostile reception’

NOTE:  While OFIR generally focuses on the impact of illegal immigration here in the U.S. and particularly in Oregon, it is important to see how other countries are dealing with the issue.  In the article below from the London Telegraph, Home Secretary Theresa May, is questioned about how Britain is dealing with illegal immigration.


Poker players say everyone has a tell, a little tic that gives away their feelings about the hand they are playing. For Theresa May, it’s the eyes. Ask her a question she finds tricky — or just impertinent — and her eyes narrow briefly: catlike and wary.

The Home Secretary chooses her words with feline delicacy too, painfully aware that in her position a few stray words or a rash promise could be suicidal.

The safety-first approach has served her well so far. Despite a few scrapes, after two years in the job her position is secure — or at least, as secure as anyone can be in Whitehall’s most dangerous department. Most of the incidents that have put her on the front pages have sprung from Britain’s endlessly newsworthy immigration system.

Official figures this week showed that net immigration was still running at about 250,000 a year, well above the “tens of thousands” that the Conservatives — but not the Lib Dems — promised the Coalition would deliver.

Why aren’t the numbers coming down as her party promised? Blaming Labour for the scale of the problem, she admits that all the Coalition has managed to do is “stabilise” the migration numbers.

But soon, she insists, those figures will fall, as restrictions on student and working visas are reflected in the statistics. “We are seeing the number of visas issued going down, but there is a lag between those and feeding through into the net migration figures.”

So will she promise that the “tens of thousands” promise will be met by the next election? Here, the eyes narrow noticeably. “Well, that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Today though, her focus is on those who are in Britain illegally, and her language becomes uncharacteristically vivid. “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration,” she declares.

Work is under way to deny illegal immigrants access to work, housing and services, even bank accounts. “What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they’re able to access everything they need,” she says.

HM Revenue and Customs is coming down hard on companies that employ illegal immigrants, the Department of Work and Pensions is taking a “zero tolerance” approach to benefits claims, and local councils are closing impromptu shelters offering “beds in sheds”, she says.

And now the UK Border Authority has joined CIFAS, a not-for-profit financial fraud prevention service, with a view to closing individual bank accounts. “We will talk to the CIFAS members, financial institutions, about the possibility of closing accounts of people who have no right to be here,” she says. “If you’re going to create a hostile environment for illegal migrants … access to financial services is part of that.”

Some critics blame Britain’s immigration troubles on the EU and the freedom of movement it grants to those within its borders. Mrs May says her recent conversations with EU counterparts suggest that the European mood is changing.

“Discussions within the EU are much more looking at the immigration issue, the migration issue, as something that needs to be considered and addressed,” she says. “Within the EU, in a wider context, people are increasingly recognising the need to prevent the abuse of free movement.”

And what if a eurozone collapse sent thousands of economic migrants heading north from Greece or Spain? Could she legally restrict their right to come to Britain?

This is another eyes-narrow moment. “As in every part of government, it is right that we do some contingency planning on this,” she says. “That is work that is ongoing.” But could you restrict entry in an economic emergency? “We will be doing contingency planning.”

The other side of the immigration coin is the trouble some Britons have getting back into their own country.

Mrs May admits that some of the queues recently experienced at Heathrow and elsewhere have been “unacceptable”, but insists things are getting better.

More staff and better co-ordination of shift patterns with flight arrivals should end the maddening ordeal of standing in line while staring at empty immigration desks.

Those improvements should “make sure that we have all the desks manned at peak times, so that we can provide people with the service they want.”

So can she guarantee no infuriatingly empty desks during the summer holiday season? Here, she comes close to making a promise.

“What we are doing is working with the airports and the operators … so we can manage the people on the desks to ensure that they are all manned when those peaks come.” Read more about Theresa May interview: 'We’re going to give illegal migrants a really hostile reception’

Senator Merkley to hold Eastern Oregon Townhall meetings

Alert date: 
May 25, 2012
Alert body: 

Merkley's NumbersUSA Immigration-Reduction Report Card shows a D- grade.  Plan to attend one of his Townhall meetings.  Bring a friend or neighbor and ask questions.  Dates, locations and question suggestions click here.

Senator Merkely holding 5 town halls in Eastern Oregon

OFIRP encourages members to attend Townhall meetings and ask questions. See below for suggested questions, if you don't have your own ideas.  Invite a friend or neighbor to join you.  Remember, Senator Merkley works for Oregon's citizens, but his Immigration-Reduction Report Card shows a D- grade.   

Ask Senator Merkley to explain why he isn't working for unemployed Oregonians.

Sherman County Town Hall
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
12:00 pm
Rufus Community Center
304 West 2nd
Rufus, OR 97050

Gilliam County Town Hall
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
2:30 pm
Arlington High School Gymnasium
1200 Main Street
Arlington, 97812

Morrow County Town Hall
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
5:30 pm
Ione School District
445 Spring Street
Ione, OR 97843

Wallowa County Town Hall
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
2:00 pm
South Fork Grange
Hwy 82 (Center of Lostine)
Lostine, OR 97857

Wheeler County Town Hall
Thursday, May 31, 2012
12:00 pm
Wheeler County Family Services Building
401 Fourth Street
Fossil, OR 97830

Below are a few examples of questions you could ask Senator Merkley:

Senator Merkley, mandatory E-Verify could get millions of Americans back to work and has support from people in every party. Why have you not worked with fellow Oregonian Representative DeFazio to get this mandate passed?

Senator Merkley, only illegal aliens and the big businesses that hire them are against E-Verify. 81% of Democrats support E-Verify. So why are you refusing to support this program? Who are you trying to protect?

Senator Merkley, there are 20 million Americans who are unemployed, jobless, or underemployed. If you were on the side of the American worker, you would support E-Verify. It could open up 7 million jobs, more than any bill being discussed in Congress right now! Will you please support mandatory E-Verify? Read more about Senator Merkely holding 5 town halls in Eastern Oregon

Immigration agents are hampered by restrictions from the Obama administration.

Alert date: 
May 17, 2012
Alert body: 

Tell Congress to pass HALT Act! 

Recent reports that illegal immigration from Mexico has slowed have led some open-border advocates to say that the immigration crisis is over and now we should proceed with a "comprehensive immigration reform" amnesty. However, immigration enforcement officers are dubious and think that the Obama administration is cooking the books to defuse immigration as a political issue.
Estimates of illegal immigration are based in part on the number of apprehensions, but T.J. Bonner, the former president of the National Border Patrol Council, said numerous restrictions hinder efforts to enforce the law. Moreover, Bonner noted, remittances to the Bank of Mexico are up substantially this year, an anomaly that is difficult to explain if, as the Pew Hispanic Center asserts, the number of Mexicans living in the U. S. has stabilized or declined.

The HALT Act by House Judiciary Chair, Lamar Smith (R-TX), would assert the authority of Congress over immigration policy. HR 2497 would temporarily prevent the Obama Administration from waiving the inadmissibility of illegal aliens and from cancelling their removal orders or adjusting their status. Ask the House to pass this enforcement measure.


Call or write and tell your Representative to pass the HALT Act and prevent the Administration from impeding enforcement of our immigration laws.


Welfare Costs for Children of Illegal Aliens Exceeds $646 Millon

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – Year-end closing 2011 figures from the Department of Public Social Services reported that over $646 million in welfare and food stamp benefits were issued to illegal alien parents for their native-born children, announced Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

The $646.2 million consisted of $258 million in CalWORKs (welfare) and $388 million in Food Stamps) — a $21 million increase over the previous year.

“With the $550 million for public safety and nearly $500 million for healthcare, the total cost for illegal immigrants to County taxpayers exceeds $1.6 billion dollars a year,” said Antonovich. “These costs do not include the hundreds of millions of dollars for education.” Read more about Welfare Costs for Children of Illegal Aliens Exceeds $646 Millon

We have a winner!

Alert date: 
May 12, 2012
Alert body: 

Oregonians for Immigration Reform announces our $1,000 scholarship winner. Victoria Hittner of Salem, was chosen as the winner.

For those of you that missed the April 15th deadline, please apply again next year.

Highway safety sign becomes running story on immigration

Perhaps nowhere else could such a road sign have been born.

A ghostly silhouette of a mother, father and little girl running, their bodies leaning forward as if into the wind. The child's pigtails fly behind her as the family dashes across a stark yellow background, accompanied by one word: CAUTION.

Caltrans posted several of these signs along San Diego freeways beginning in 1990, when the city was a funnel for undocumented immigrants headed north. The signs were intended to warn drivers they might encounter people frantically darting across lanes of traffic as they tried to evade border security.

Dozens of immigrants were struck and killed from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, some in front of horrified family members, as stunned drivers failed to stop in time.

The freeway deaths ended long ago, but the signs remain. And, in the intervening years, the silhouetted image has quietly taken on a life of its own.

Today, the running family is found on T-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers, book covers and CDs, in fine art and even hanging in an exhibit at the Smithsonian.

The characters have been reinterpreted carrying surfboards and wearing Pilgrim hats. One depiction shows them being followed by a man with a gun.

The image has become a Rorschach test for how people feel about illegal immigration and immigrants in general. Some have claimed it as a symbol of Latino identity. Others wear it as a badge of anti-immigrant sentiment.

"It has become an icon that signals immigration and the political issues surrounding immigration, which are far from resolved in our society," said Otto Santa Ana, a professor of Chicano studies at UCLA.

And yet some see it as nothing more than a quirky regional souvenir.

"Come to San Diego," one T-shirt reads. "Bring your family."

The assignment to create the road sign landed on the desk of Caltrans graphic artist John Hood in the late 1980s. He was asked to design an image that, in the blink of an eye, would alert drivers to the unexpected sight of pedestrians in their headlights.

Text signs that had been posted on Interstates 5 and 805 near the border, urging "Caution Watch for People Crossing Road," proved too wordy to register with motorists. Meanwhile, close to 100 undocumented immigrants had been killed on county freeways over a five-year span.

One particularly deadly spot was on Interstate 5 at Camp Pendleton, south of the Border Patrol checkpoint. Immigrant smugglers would stop their vehicles and order everyone out, instructing them to cross the freeway toward the beach. The idea was for the immigrants to walk north and then, once they had skirted the checkpoint, cross the freeway again to the vehicle, which would be waiting on the other side.

People who had never seen a freeway were crossing up to eight lanes of traffic, often at night, with little idea how fast the tiny, distant headlights they saw would be upon them.

Parents were killed in front of their children, children in front of parents. Drivers who hit these people were left emotionally wrecked. One was haunted by the sight of an anguished face flying across the windshield. Another swore he had hit a bear.

Before Hood began drawing the sign, he and his supervisors met with Highway Patrol officers and saw photos of accident scenes. What got to him most were the deaths that involved families.

"Graphically, I wanted to show a family," said Hood, who lives in San Diego. He chose to include a pigtailed girl, rather than a boy, because "there is something about a little girl running across with her parents that we are more affected by."

Imagination at work

At first he drew detailed figures, with faces that showed "a little bit of fright." But, in the end, Hood and his supervisors decided on a silhouette.

"When you are looking through headlights, that is what you see," Hood said, "an outline of the image itself."

As he sketched, Hood tried to imagine the despair that might drive such a family across the border and onto a forbidding foreign highway.

He drew from his own experience fighting in Vietnam, where he had seen families run for their lives as villages were attacked. He remembered stories his Navajo parents had told him about ancestors who died trying to escape as U.S. soldiers marched them onto reservations.

The drawing was finished in a week. Even without faces, the characters conveyed a sense of urgency in their flight.

"It doesn't just mean they are running across the freeway," Hood said. "It means they are running from something else as well. I think it's a struggle for a lot of things, for opportunities, for freedom."

The first signs were unveiled in September 1990 at Camp Pendleton. Almost immediately, reaction came from all sides. Some Latinos felt insulted by the faceless silhouettes, which they found reminiscent of animal-crossing signs. Anti-illegal immigration advocates were angry that a state agency would be trying to protect people who had broken the law. Some people feared the signs would be misread as indicating safe places to cross.

"Either you liked it or you hated it," said Steve Saville, a veteran Caltrans spokesman. "It was an extraordinary measure to deal with an extraordinary situation."

T-shirts and surfboards

Entrepreneurs liked it, sensing the makings of a good California souvenir. It helped that the image is public property, so no one had to pay Caltrans to use it. By the mid-1990s, the running family was turning up in gift shops throughout the state.

Bemused Caltrans employees from San Diego began seeing the image emblazoned on T-shirts, stickers, even tote bags, while traveling as far north as San Francisco and Monterey. In Laguna Beach the characters had silhouetted surfboards tucked under their arms, as if sprinting toward the waves.

Today, a hipster boutique on Los Angeles' trendy Vermont Avenue stocks a couple of T-shirt versions, including one depicting the immigrants in place of the grizzly bear on the California state flag.

In San Diego, the characters are found on T-shirts and stickers sold in souvenir shops. They carry surfboards on mini-road signs that locals have posted in some beach communities.

Those who make and sell these items say they don't dwell on the road sign's history or the controversy surrounding illegal immigration. To such novelty T-shirt manufacturers as Jake Haughty, owner of San Diego-based Chingón Gear and Accessories, the sign is just a quirky slice of Southern California life.

"When I first moved here from the East Coast, I thought that was one of the funniest signs I had seen," said Haughty, whose company prints a version of the characters carrying surfboards. "I don't really know what it means, other than it's just kind of funny."

Still, the running family on a T-shirt doesn't amuse everyone. When first-generation Mexican immigrant Juan Ruiz spotted one in a Los Angeles gift shop last year, he didn't see local color or generic silhouettes. He saw himself.

Ruiz was riding in a smuggler's car late one afternoon in 1987, headed for Los Angeles after crossing the border in San Diego. Suddenly the car screeched to a halt. The smuggler ordered everyone out onto what Ruiz thought was "a very wide avenue" and barked orders to run. Ruiz ran blindly, his heart beating in his throat.

"I didn't know if I was coming or going," said Ruiz, now 48 and in the country legally. "I lived it. So, when I see these things, they make me sad."

People familiar with the hardships that drive many immigrants to leave home aren't likely to laugh at the image on a T-shirt, said Jorge Mariscal, director of the Chicano studies program at UCSD.

Yet, for others, the desperate action the image depicts is so far removed from their own reality that it is incomprehensible, and the characters become mere cartoons.

"It depends on how privileged you are," Mariscal said. "If you are pretty privileged, it is very amusing. It can only be received humorously if you don't understand the dire situation of these people running across the freeway."

Protest art

The grandchild of immigrants, Mariscal was taken aback when he saw the image on a T-shirt in a La Jolla souvenir store. But he admits he was amused when he saw a different version on a T-shirt for sale more recently, this time during a festival at Chicano Park.

"I did perk up," he said, "when I saw the one with the Pilgrims on it."

In that version, the silhouettes are drawn in Pilgrim attire, with the father wearing a tall hat, a sly poke at the Mayflower passengers' lack of permission from Massachusetts natives to move in. It's just one way in which Latinos have turned the image into protest art, embracing the running family as their own.

In El Mercado, a cavernous three-story shopping center in East Los Angeles, a stall sells car window stickers of the original silhouettes with a logo that reads "Powered By Mexican."

"It's against la migra," said sticker vendor Jesús Flores, who sells them mostly to second-generation kids in their late teens. "It's like a sign of rebellion for them, like, 'Let people say whatever they want (about us).' "

Latino artists have incorporated the figures into paintings, cartoons and other works, portraying them as Day of the Dead skeletons, even as religious figures.

Los Angeles painter Rosa M. Huerta-Williamson depicted them as a modern-day Jesus, Mary and Joseph in 1994 when she painted "La Sagrada Familia en Aztlan," which features the characters running beneath a flaming sacred heart and cross.

"What I was trying to do was indicate that this could be the sacred family and we wouldn't recognize them," said Huerta-Williamson, who sold the painting to a Mexican-American professor and his wife. "As long as these people don't have faces, white Americans don't have to think about the fact that they have feelings."

At the opposite end of the illegal immigration debate, others not so sympathetic have imbued the image with their own meaning.

A Web site called sells T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, aprons, even men's boxers printed with a version of the running family almost true to the original, except the characters are being followed by a man with a gun.

"It's an AK-47, which is typically associated with terrorists," said John Martin, the Livermore entrepreneur who owns the site. "The man with the gun is not stalking the people; he is following them in. The point of the design is to illustrate how porous our borders are."

Seen as metaphor

That a piece of highway safety art has come to mean so many things to so many different people indicates the image has achieved icon status, said UCLA's Santa Ana, who studies how Latinos are portrayed in society and media.

"When it becomes iconic," he said, "is when people pick up and run with it."

Some people literally have picked up and run with a sign. At least one has been stolen. One woman recently called Caltrans to ask whether she could have one.

Caltrans isn't giving them away. But there are no plans to replace stolen signs or to install new ones as the originals age.

Not long after the signs went up, Caltrans placed tall fences in the center divider on I-5 at Camp Pendleton and farther south to deter freeway crossers. And beginning in late 1994, the federal government started Operation Gatekeeper, which fenced off the border south of San Diego and has pushed the brunt of illegal immigration – and its casualties – east.

Highway maintenance crews sometimes find a belt used as a handhold dangling from a divider fence. But the Border Patrol can't recall any immigrants having died crossing local freeways since the late 1990s. The road signs have become relics.

Peter Liebhold, a curator for the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, said the museum wanted to acquire a sign for its permanent exhibit on transportation, which opened a year and a half ago, but curators found the 5-by-7-foot sign too large for the allotted space.

The Smithsonian settled on a photo of the sign instead. It hangs one floor down from the original 1813 Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the national anthem.

"It transcends its local history," Liebhold said. "Its importance is as a metaphor for undocumented immigration into the United States."

Hood, the Caltrans artist, a modest man by nature, didn't set out to create anything of the sort, just a road sign to help save lives.

Over the years, he has watched the transformation of his simple creation into souvenir, protest art, icon and metaphor with a mix of amazement and amusement, wishing only that some of the money being made from it today were generating funds for public safety.

Hood earns no royalties. He's lost track of his original sketches. His wife filed them away, but he's not sure where. Not that it bothers him. His road sign, or at least some version of it, isn't hard to find.

"That was my baby," he said. "It has its own life now." Read more about Highway safety sign becomes running story on immigration

Arizona law and the feds

Wednesday’s argument before the Supreme Court failed to produce even one good reason why Arizona’s law on illegal immigration is illegal or unconstitutional.

The main aspect of the law is that it requires police to check on the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons. And if someone turns out to be undocumented or "illegal," the feds are notified.

Whether this is feasible depends on how it’s done. If Arizona handles things like Oregon, where you have to prove your residency status when getting or renewing a driver’s license, it should be no problem. Showing the license answers the question, and that’s all there is to it. No racial profiling is involved.

The court made clear that it wanted to consider the federal government’s challenge to the Arizona law only in relation to state versus federal power: Does the state interfere with the national government in some way?

States enforce other federal rules or laws. States enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act, for example, or the regulations of HIPAA. Also, the federal Justice Department wants states to enforce the federal prohibition against marijuana. In fact, it looks askance at states like California and Oregon that try to go their own way in regard to pot.

So what is so wrong with a state helping the government enforce its immigration laws?

Before the court Wednesday, the government maintained that the Arizona law could sour U.S. relations with Mexico. But enforcement of U.S. laws can’t be made contingent on approval by another country, can it?

The news reports on this case suggest that the outcome, expected in June, may have an influence on the national political campaigns. But Latinos, the group likely to be most affected by enforcement, have no reason to fear the outcome if the Arizona law is upheld.

If former immigrants have gone through the steps the law lays out, they have no reason to champion the cause of those who have not. (hh) Read more about Arizona law and the feds

Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 12

OFIR members and concerned citizens, you're invited to bring a friend and join us Saturday, May 12 at 2:00 pm for a behind the scenes look at the Arizona - Mexico border.  OFIR President, Cynthia Kendoll traveled with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and a small group of concerned citizens from around the country on a week long, intensive study of the situation on our southern border in restricted areas not safely accessible to citizens.  Cynthia will be presenting a photographic tour of what she witnessed on the trip.  Move past the propaganda and see what is really happening.  During the trip, specialists in several governmental departments shared how they are impacted every day by illegal immigration.  Mark your calendar and plan to attend.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 2 pm

In Salem, at the Best Western Mill Creek Inn,

3125 Ryan Dr SE, just west of I-5 Exit 253, across from Costco.

  Read more about Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 12

Deadline for Scholarship applications draws near

Alert date: 
April 2, 2012
Alert body: 

OFIR is offering two scholarships ($1,000 and $750) for college bound seniors and currently enrolled college undergraduate students.  The deadline for applications to be received by OFIR is April 15th.  Please tell the college bound students you know about this opportunity.


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