By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer residents and their allies turned out in force at a Keizer City Council meeting Monday, Oct. 1, to advocate for the council to adopt a resolution urging Keizer voters to oppose Measure 105, a measure on the ballot heading to voters later this month.
Measure 105 would repeal prohibitions against local law enforcement officers investigating and arresting people solely suspected of being in the United States illegally.
“This measure is not only supported by flat-out white supremacists, but it also clearly supports the further criminalization and terrorizing of communities of color. It would only worsen the racial profiling that already exists and be an absolute abuse of power,” said Cindy Rico, a 2015 McNary alum.
The Measure 105 effort gathered more than enough signatures to earn a place on the ballot, but one of the driving forces behind the effort was the Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR). OFIR is recognized as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for accepting maintaining “strong ties to anti-immigrant hate groups and white nationalists.”
Testimony on the matter lasted almost 90 minutes, with all but one individual urging the council to adopt the resolution. In the end, rather than urging members of the community to vote against the measure, the council adopted a resolution stating only that the council opposes Measure 105 in a 6-1 vote. Councilor Amy Ryan was the only holdout.
Rev. Jose Dominguez, of Keizer’s Ingelsia La Luz del Valle, said that his church has had an active role in helping local families that were once undocumented obtain residency and seen others go on to attain citizenship.
“I believe [Measure 105] would create fear, mistrust and division creating an ‘us and them’ mentality. I believe this law, if passed, would put a greater strain on our police resources,” Dominguez said.
Sly Smith said participation in his church, Salem Mennonite Church in south Keizer, has dropped precipitously since the election of President Donald Trump.
“Our membership dropped by 30 percent. What we found was that a lot of those families walked to our church and suddenly they became afraid to come out period,” Smith said. “There is a continual sense of trying to build and hold together a community that is fractured and I hope you’ll vote ‘no’ on 105.”
Dennis Koho, a former Keizer mayor and city councilor, said taking a stand on this issue was a way to begin making amends for actions by previous city councils that added anti-LGBTQ language to Keizer’s city charter.
“This is a chance to fix it. Good people have done good work to help people comply with law and adopting this resolution is another step forward to help them do that,” Koho said.
Alex Sosa, a Keizer eighth grader, asked the council whether he seemed less important to them because of his brown skin.
“I hope not. I hope you see me and my family as important as any other other lives in Keizer. Help students stay focused in school and help us stay safe in our city and house,” Alex said.
Another McNary graduate who offered testimony, Levi Herrera-Lopez, now runs Mano e Mano, a Salem-based organization offering a variety of local services to Latino families. More than 115 families assisted by Mano e Mano are located in Keizer.
“I feel that local law enforcement is committed to keeping us safe, but the only way to avoid racial profiling [if Measure 105 is successful] is if 100 percent of the people police run into are asked for their papers,” Herrera-Lopez said.
Passage of Measure 105 would put its supporters one step closer “removing people like me and my family members,” he added.
The city also received a handful of letters weighing in on the issue, including one from state Sen. Kim Thatcher, whose district includes Keizer.
“The attitudes of our law enforcement have changed dramatically from … when the [original] law was passed. The statute that would be overturned … has morphed into something well beyond its original intent and has become an excuse for state, county and local law enforcement to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials,” Thatcher wrote.
When asked what would happen at the Keizer Police Department if the Measure 105 is successful, Keizer Police Chief John Teague said, not much.
“It won’t change what we do as a matter of policy and practice. We work with ICE within the parameters established by statute. We have great relationships with our community and, whether it passes or not, it’s not going to change,” Teague said.
While that might reassure residents while Teague remains chief, departmental policies could change under different leadership.