Jim Ludwick, co-founder of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, points with enthusiasm to his organization’s designation by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-immigrant hate group.”
“We are very proud of that. I have a button that says, ‘The SPLC Hates Me,’” Ludwick told PJM. “If you are doing what we are doing and you haven’t been called a hate group by the SPLC, then you are not doing your job.”
He didn’t know about the SPLC slam until a neighbor, whom Ludwick described as “a very liberal college professor and a great friend,” came over to his house a few years ago to tell him the news.
The SPLC never called Ludwick to ask him any questions or talk about his group, he said. Not that he felt the need to, but Ludwick said he never had a chance to defend OFIR. It doesn’t take a political rocket scientist to detect Ludwick’s disgust with the SPLC.
“They (SPLC) are a leftist, Marxist organization that tries to slur people who disagree with them,” Ludwick added.
The SPLC lists OFIR among “nativist extremist” groups that “go beyond mere advocacy to personally confront suspected undocumented immigrants or those who hire or help them.”
Well, this will give new fuel to the SPLC’s fire: With a successful 2014 campaign to stop Oregon from issuing drivers’ cards to illegal immigrants under its belt, the OFIR is on a new mission in 2018.
Ludwick said the OFIR wants to overturn Oregon’s three decades of tradition as a sanctuary state for those who enter and stay in the U.S. illegally.
OFIR is leading the Initiative Petition 22 campaign. It is an effort to collect enough petition signatures, and then adequate voter support in the November election, to repeal Oregon’s law that stops state agencies, including law enforcement, from using state resources to arrest illegal immigrants.
“Illegal aliens can and do harm the American citizens to whom Oregon owes its foremost responsibility. For this reason, enforcement of U.S. immigration law is central to the duties of Oregon’s police departments and sheriff’s offices,” read a statement on the website of Stop Oregon Sanctuaries.
The SOS statement also said by lifting the decades-old law that blocked state resources from being used to track down and apprehend illegal aliens, Oregon police would be freed “to better protect Oregonians from criminal aliens.”
But Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility said the proposal to do away with the state’s sanctuary state law involves “racial profiling and scapegoating of a vulnerable population.”
“In addition, deportation of immigrants presents a many-faceted threat to public health,” the OPSR statement read. “Deportation and the threat of deportation negatively affect both mental health and access to healthcare. Children of deportees are at risk of increased health problems due to loss of economic support and familial relationship.”
The Portland State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors has also come out against OFIR’s campaign because, the union warned, the initiative could put professors in the role of police.
“This will undo the sanctuary status declared by both Portland State University and the City of Portland, and will require Portland State University police in the apprehension of PSU students suspected of immigration law violations,” the PSU-AAUP statement read. “This measure could ultimately require PSU employees to assist in that effort.”
Jason Leon, chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party’s Latino Caucus, warned that even some of the people who sign the petition signatures might find ICE knocking at their doors.
“We have read countless stories of Immigration and Custom Enforcement making mistakes by targeting Americans who ‘look like’ immigrants. This approach is harmful to families, particularly with children, whose parents are swept up in illegal enforcement activities,” Leon wrote in a resolution opposing the petition drive.
Besides philosophical and political differences with OFIR, groups opposed to Initiative Petition 22 have also said many of those gathering signatures have not told voters the truth about the intent of the proposal.
Despite allegations that Initiative Petition 22 signature gatherers have been lying about the ballot measure’s intent, Ludwick said he was confident the proposal would earn a slot on the November ballot.
“A very leftist group is complaining that some of the signature gatherers have misrepresented the initiative,” Ludwick said. “They are doing their normal stuff because the last thing they want is to have this on the ballot.”
Besides, Ludwick said, after the 2014 “Protect Oregon Driver’s Licenses” campaign, collecting valid petition signatures is something the OFIR knows how to do very well.
“You only have a short time, three months after the close of the legislative session, to collect 58,142 valid signatures. It’s a monumental task,” said Ludwick. “No one gave us a chance. I didn’t think we had a chance. But we succeeded.”
Ludwick said OFIR also learned some valuable lessons about how to win a ballot initiative or referendum campaign four years ago.
The most important lesson: Money isn’t everything.
Ludwick said during the campaign, his group was outspent 10-1. “One Hollywood actress gave almost as much money to the pro-illegal alien side that we had in total. Every newspaper in Oregon came out against us, and we won, 2-1.”
He said even a majority of Democrats voted in favor of the referendum to make sure illegal aliens didn’t get driver’s licenses.
“That’s why they don’t want us to get on the ballot with an initiative to overturn Oregon’s sanctuary state laws,” Ludwick said.
“If they truly believed that Oregonians were in favor of a sanctuary state, hell, they’d be out collecting signatures for us,” he added. “Instead, they are trying to disrupt our signature-gatherers.”
Ludwick said stories like that of Sergio Martinez, a 12-time deported illegal immigrant who committed 18 crimes but was released by Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, are sordid enough to change even a liberal’s mind in the privacy of a voting booth.
“The sheriff (Reese) turned him loose. Martinez went out, raped one woman, sexually abused another; about four months ago he was sentenced to 34 years in the Oregon State Penitentiary,” Ludwick said. “Which means we taxpayers in Oregon are going to be saddled with a million dollars in incarceration costs for someone who had no legal right to be here in the first place.”
“And since (Martinez) was here illegally, he should have been turned over to ICE (by Sheriff Reese) before the guy raped and sexually abused two women, two women who have been scarred for life because of this state statute,” he said.
Even though Ludwick never asks people who sign his petitions to classify themselves as conservative or liberal, he said it’s easy to see on the streets of Oregon that stories of illegals like Martinez resonate with voters of all political persuasions.
Ludwick expects the campaign for and against Initiative Petition 22 will become even more emotional up to and after the July 1 petition signature-filing deadline.
Because of that, Ludwick said his group’s opponents are “going to cast every assertion they can and call us every name they can and the left-wing, Marxist, socialists will do anything they can to disrupt the honest collection of signatures.”