A new referendum will give Oregon residents the chance to vote on whether to repeal the state’s decades-old sanctuary law come November.
The initiative challenging the sanctuary law is spearheaded by local anti-immigrant hate group Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR).
The Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced on July 17 it had certified enough signatures to add Initiative Petition 22, now called Measure 105, to the upcoming ballot. Measure 105 has the potential to repeal an Oregon law that has been on the books since 1987 prohibiting local law enforcement from arresting individuals based solely on immigration status. If overturned, it could prompt state and local officers to enforce federal immigration laws.
In order to qualify Measure 105, OFIR had to gather and submit 88,184 signatures in support of the measure. OFIR exceeded the number of signatures needed, even after 400 were reportedly purged following an investigation into a signature gatherer who was allegedly misleading potential signers about the referendum’s true intent.
Repealing sanctuary measures have been a long-time strategy of anti-immigrant hate groups. Thus, OFIR’s anti-sanctuary push received significant logistical and monetary assistance from national anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Shari Rendall, FAIR’s state and local director, has been involved with efforts to get the word out about the referendum to her group’s base. Leading up to the signature deadline, FAIR’s president Dan Stein stated: “We’re going to be reaching out to people across the state of Oregon to try and make sure we get this over the top.”
In August 2017, U.S., Inc., an umbrella organization that funds anti-immigrant groups across the country, donated $5,000 to the effort. U.S. Inc. was founded by John Tanton, the architect of the modern nativist movement, to fund his racist immigration goals, which includes preserving “a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." OFIR’s co-founder Jim Ludwick reportedly defended taking U.S., Inc.’s money, brushing off criticism of Tanton. OFIR’s president Cynthia Kendoll, previously spoke at a writer’s workshop event put on by The Social Contract Press, another project started by Tanton and housed under U.S., Inc.
After the initiative qualified for the ballot, Rendall published a blog celebrating it clearing “the first hurdle” while noting it still faces opposition from Oregon-based civil rights groups, local elected officials and companies like Nike and Columbia Sportswear. Anti-immigrant activist Paul Nachman, who is close with OFIR leadership and a supporter of the initiative, lauded the group’s activism at the white nationalist blog site VDARE. “And to Oregonians: thanks for ensuring that Sanctuary Cities will finally get into politics this November,” he wrote. Another VDARE blog written by Nachman in support of OFIR’s anti-sanctuary effort was featured on the official “Stop Oregon Sanctuaries” website.
FAIR has been involved in other anti-sanctuary campaigns across the country. FAIR staffers have been active in California trying to get cities to opt out of the state’s pro-immigrant laws. In March Rendall appeared in Tennessee to whip up opposition against sanctuary cities among state lawmakers.
FAIR’s anti-sanctuary push comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration has been hostile to cities with sanctuary laws on the books. Last year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Portland, Oregon, speaking against sanctuary cities.
FAIR has long sought to overturn pro-immigrant measures in order to further its hateful agenda. The group’s support of OFIR and Measure 105 is an extension of that. FAIR will surely provide additional assistance to the anti-immigrant side as the battle over Oregon’s sanctuary status continues into November.