Activists with Extremist Ties Behind Oregon Immigration Referendum

  • October 30, 2014

The Oregon legislature passed a law in 2013 that will allow undocumented immigrants in the state to obtain driver’s licenses. In response, a coalition of national and local anti-immigrant groups successfully gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the November 2014 ballot that will allow Oregon voters to decide the driver’s license issue. This move is part of the anti-immigrant movement’s strategy to block all pro-immigrant legislation at the state and national levels. The coalition of anti-immigrant activists and groups behind the “No” vote have a history of bigoted statements and ties to extremists.

Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR)

The most active anti-immigrant group in Oregon is the Salem-based Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR). The extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) lists OFIR as a state contact group for Oregon. Founded in 2000, OFIR’s history is steeped in bigotry.

During the mid-2000s when Minutemen groups were still very active in the country, OFIR partnered with the Oregon chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC). OFIR’s partnership with the Oregon chapter of MCDC focused on targeting day labor centers in the state. In 2007, OFIR leadership participated in an event with border vigilante leader Jim Gilchrist, the co-founder of another Minuteman group, the Minuteman Project. In the past, Gilchrist has referred to immigrants as the “Mexican Klan” and “Mexican Nazis.” OFIR participated in a rally with Gilchrist in Eugene, Oregon, as part of his visit to the state.

In 2009, at another anti-immigrant rally organized by OFIR, the media reported that an OFIR activist was heard yelling “you dropped a taco” towards pro-immigrant counter-protestors at the steps of the state capitol building in Salem. More recently, white supremacists attended an OFIR-organized anti-immigrant protest in Salem, Oregon, in July 2014. OFIR leadership, however, attempted to distance the organization from the white supremacists upon hearing they attended the event.

Cynthia Kendoll – OFIR President

The current president of OFIR is Cynthia Kendoll, a longtime anti-immigrant activist. Kendoll often participates in FAIR events, including a September 2014 FAIR-sponsored border event. In 2012, Kendoll took part in a border tour sponsored by the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Following the tour, OFIR invited CIS’s executive director, Mark Krikorian, to speak at its December 2012 meeting. Krikorian has a history of making racist statements. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, for example, Krikorian wrote, “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” In December 2013, OFIR invited FAIR’s national field director, Susan Tully to its December 2013 meeting.

That same year, Kendoll attended FAIR’s annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire event in Washington, D.C. The event brings together anti-immigrant activists, fig­ures, radio hosts and immi­gra­tion restric­tion­ist mem­bers of Con­gress in an effort to influ­ence the immi­gra­tion debate.

More recently, Kendoll made a bigoted remark in an interview with the Oregon paper Willamette Week. Published on October 1, 2014, Kendoll called immigration, “an organized assault on our culture.”

Also in October 2014, Kendoll gave a presentation at the Social Contract Press Writers Workshop conference. The conference brings together anti-immigrant activists, staffers of anti-immigrant groups, and extremists to discuss immigration topics.  The full text of Kendoll’s speech was published on the racist website VDARE. Kendoll began the presentation by thanking conference organizer K.C. McAlpin for inviting her to the conference.  

 K.C. McAlpin is John Tanton’s right-hand man. Tanton is a racist and the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement. In 2011, McAlpin defended a call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the country. He claimed that ban­ning Mus­lims would be the same as ban­ning com­mu­nists or Nazis in the past. Accord­ing to McAlpin, “Con­gress has used that power in the past to ban the immi­gra­tion of Com­mu­nist Party and National Social­ist (Nazi) party mem­bers who were deemed to be threats to our national secu­rity. This case is no different.”

Protect Oregon Driver’s Licenses Committee (PODL)

In response to the passage of the driver’s license bill for undocumented immigrants in Oregon, anti-immigrant activists set up a committee named Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses (PODL). PODL then filed a citizens veto referendum in order to attempt to qualify the driver’s license law for a veto referendum, which would allow Oregon voters to veto the new law. PODL and OFIR activists gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the November 2014 ballot. Since then PODL continues to urge Oregonians to vote “No” on the measure.  

The PODL website lists a number of “endorsers” of the committee. Some of the PODL endorsers are longtime anti-immigrant activists with a history of making bigoted statements. One endorser is D.A. King, the founder of the Georgia-based anti-immigrant group Dustin Inman Society (DIS). King is a former VDARE contributor. In one VDARE entry, he discussed his experience at a March for Dignity, comprised of, in King’s words, “mostly Hispanic demonstrators.” He wrote, “I got the sense that I had left the country of my birth and been transported to some Mexican village, completely taken over by an angry, barely restrained mob….My first act on a safe return home was to take a shower.”

Another PODL endorser is the Houston-based anti-immigrant activist Maria Espinoza, founder of the anti-immigrant group The Remembrance Project. Espinoza expressed bigoted views on social media over the past year. In November 2013, for example, when a student group at the University of Texas at Austin attempted to hold a “catch an illegal immigrant” event on campus, Espinoza shared the story on her Facebook page, and stated, “Support these kids by liking and sharing their page!” A March 2014 Facebook post by Espinoza read, “Child molestation and rape are very numerous in this illegal alien demographic!”

Richard LaMountain – Former OFIR Vice-President and Chief Petitioner for the Signature Campaign

Richard LaMountain served as chief petitioner for the signature campaign and is a former board member and vice-president of OFIR. Throughout the years, LaMountain’s writings appeared in a number of racist publications. LaMountain was a longtime contributor to the racist paper Middle American News (MAN). MAN published regular columns from racists including Wayne Lutton and John Vinson. In 2007, LaMountain submitted a letter to the editor of the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press (AFP) claiming that Iraqi refugees settling in the United States will resist assimilation to American society. AFP published the letter in its May 14 issue. Longtime anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Willis Carto runs AFP. In 2014, LaMountain wrote an article for the racist blog VDARE, founded by white supremacist Peter Brimelow.

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

Since its founding in 1979 by John Tanton, the extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has worked to assist local anti-immigrant groups with getting anti-immigrant legislation passed and also to stifle pro-immigrant legislation. For example, FAIR recently donated $3,500 to the Protect Oregon Driver Licenses committee. Not only did FAIR provide financial support to the campaign, according to its newsletter, FAIR’s field, state legislative, and media teams helped “state immigration reform activists in their efforts to educate Oregon voters about the issues and the dangers of granting driver's licenses to illegal aliens.”

FAIR’s legacy is one of racism and bigotry, starting with Tanton, who has a history of racist screeds including a statement in which he said, "I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." Tanton was a friend of Harry Weyher, the former president of the Pioneer Fund. The New York Times has described the Pioneer Fund as having been established for the express purpose of promoting research into eugenics and as sponsoring projects based on the notion that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites. Through his relationship with Weyher, Tanton received funding from the Pioneer Fund that helped him grow FAIR. In total, FAIR solicited and received over $1 million from the Pioneer Fund over a number of years. 

FAIR’s longtime president, Dan Stein, is also no stranger to racism. In a 1997 interview Stein made a number of racist statements. He asserted, "Immigrants don't come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing. … Many of them hate America; hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans." He went on to say, "Should we be subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible, and not subsidizing those with high ones?"

Paul Nachman

The Montana-based anti-immigrant activist Paul Nach­man is one of the largest individual donors to the “No” vote campaign. Nach­man is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to VDARE, con­tributing hun­dreds of arti­cles for VDARE dat­ing back to 2006. In one col­umn, Nach­man pro­moted the work of extrem­ist John Vin­son. In the same col­umn, Nach­man called the burn­ing of Korans by anti-Muslim activist Terry Jones an “edu­ca­tional demonstration.” Nachman is also a contributor for Tanton’s Social Contract journal, edited by racist Wayne Lutton. In 2010, Nachman spoke at the Social Contract Press Writers Workshop conference.

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