PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Ballot Measure 105 seeks to repeal a decades-old immigration law passed by state lawmakers that limits local law enforcement's participation with federal immigration authorities.
The law passed almost unanimously and with bipartisan support in 1987.
On paper, it says no law enforcement agency can use its money, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending people whose only violation is being in the country unlawfully.
It sought to achieve two goals: to save cash-strapped agencies from spending local tax dollars on catching undocumented immigrants and to prevent racial profiling.
Portland State University history professor Dr. Richard Clucas says Oregon and the nation were in the midst of a severe recession.
"When it came to the Legislature and the issues that were brought up in hearings, were racial profiling issue, as well as funding. Local communities did not want to have to spend money and didn’t think they should be spending money on reporting to the federal government," Clucas told KATU. "The point of the issue, is racial profiling, reducing that, making sure that the police departments around the state and others were not behaving toward minority communities simply because they are minority communities."
We asked what has changed since 1987. Clucas says certain ideologies and angst among certain groups of Americans are surfacing.
"I think a lot of scholars think it comes down to the question of racial ethnic attitudes of Americans," Clucas said. "Sort the whole political debate going on about the position of white male Americans, where they fit in the political system and also concerned about the people who are not Anglo and or different coming into the political system, potentially changing things."
Measure 105 supporters say repealing the 1987 law protects lawful Americans, and their state and national security.
"The only thing that separates the United States from other countries from which people are trying to escape, is the rule of law," Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and supporter of Measure 105, said. "If we don’t respect the rule of law and hold everyone to the same rule, then we won’t last, we won’t last as a nation, we won’t have national sovereignty ... a problem that's far bigger than they are now."
The American Immigration Council says approximately 400,000 immigrants live in Oregon. That's according to the most recent statistics taken in 2015. One hundred sixty-seven thousand immigrants were naturalized, with another 82,000 eligible for citizenship.
The majority of immigrants come from Mexico.
They provide labor in some of the state's biggest industries, especially logging, fishing, farming, and production. A growing number of undocumented immigrants work in health care.
KATU and Portland State University are hosting a town hall discussion on this topic Monday, Oct. 15. It starts at 7 p.m. at PSU's Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. The event is free but you'll need a ticket. Click here for more information.