by Richard F. LaMountain
What will it take for the Legislature’s Democratic majority to heed Oregonians’ will?
Last year, via Ballot Measure 88, Oregon voters rejected the illegal-immigrant driver cards the Legislature approved in 2013. The magnitude of that rejection — the margin was almost two-to-one — made clear: the vote transcended the issue of driver cards to constitute a broad mandate against state-government benefits for illegal immigrants.
In the 2015 session, however, the Democratic majority legislated as though Measure 88’s outcome had been the opposite — passing laws, indeed, that give many illegal immigrants a better shot at taxpayer-funded educational aid than most American citizens.
Senate Bill 932, which Gov. Kate Brown signed Aug. 12, credentials certain illegal immigrants — those who entered the United States as minors and graduated from Oregon high schools — to compete against U.S. citizens for need-based Oregon Opportunity Grants to the state’s colleges. And to aid them in doing so, House Bill 2407, which Brown signed in early July, gives them race-based preferences over American students seeking the same.
How? HB 2407’s text authorizes the state Office of Student Access and Completion to “prioritize awarding Oregon Opportunity Grants to qualified students . . . whose circumstances would enhance the promotion of equity guidelines published by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.” Those guidelines, wrote Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, in Eugene’s Register-Guard newspaper, are based upon an “equity lens” whose purpose is to maximize “funding for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.”
And foremost among those “underrepresented” groups? Illegal-immigrant youths, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic — a fact which will, thanks to HB 2407, give them preference for Oregon Opportunity Grants over white and, in many cases, Asian-American applicants.
What possessed the Legislature’s Democratic majority to pass laws that so blatantly contradict Oregonians’ clear mandate against benefits for illegal immigrants?
Answer: A radical, dogmatic belief that illegal immigrants should enjoy the rights and privileges of American citizens — a belief outlined in a June letter to Salem’s Statesman Journal newspaper signed by all 35 House Democrats. “Keeping our state a great place to live — a place where all working families have a chance to get ahead and where everyone is treated equally — will require us to reject the poisonous idea that some families matter more than others,” the letter proclaimed. “All Oregonians deserve to be treated with respect and humanity, regardless of their . . . citizenship status.”
And for the Legislature’s majority party, evidently, such “respect and humanity” require favoring illegal-immigrant students over American youths for taxpayer-funded educational grants.
What the Democrats miss: Whatever the circumstances of their arrival here, illegal immigrants are not, as the House majority caucus asserts, “Oregonians.” They are, rather, foreign nationals here in violation of U.S. immigration law — law that was instituted by the American people via the representatives they elected to Congress. And when Oregon’s Democratic Legislature grants benefits to those illegal immigrants, it undermines the interests of the Americans to whom it owes its foremost responsibility — the Americans, indeed, who via Ballot Measure 88 signaled their overwhelming opposition to such benefits.
In 2016, voters should elect a new majority party to the state Legislature — one which will respect both the electoral mandates and the interests of Oregon’s U.S. citizens.
Richard F. LaMountain is a former vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform and served as a chief petitioner of Ballot Measure 88, the 2014 referendum via which Oregon voters rejected illegal-immigrant driver cards.