Skip to comments.Residents Of St Helens Debate Immigrant Ordinance
Posted on 07/20/2007 4:24:36 AM PDT by Man50D
PORTLAND, OR 2007-07-18 Now that Congress has failed to overhaul US immigration law, local governments are under pressure to do something about the issue on their own. Wednesday in St. Helens, county commissioners heard testimony on a local ordinance to place signs declaring Columbia County to be "illegal-worker free." Colin Fogarty reports.
In a small town like St. Helens, public testimony includes polite compliments to one's political adversaries. So went the testimony of Bill Eagle before the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, as he argued against an ordinance proposed by a fellow citizen, Wayne Mayo.
Bill Eagle: "I've known Wayne Mayo for a number of years. I know that Wayne is a decent, compassionate, considerate human being who harbors no hatred in his heart for anyone. On the other hand, I don't think Columbia County can afford to pass a law that would act as a wedge issue, like immigration."
Wayne Mayo is the local construction contractor who wrote a letter to the editor last week on illegal immigration. He outlined a proposed ordinance to have sheriff's deputies run Social Security checks on construction crews. He also wants fines for landlords who rent to undocumented workers and a complaint line for citizens to name immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally.
After the hearing, Mayo said wants the county put up signs that read "illegal-worker free county."
Wayne Mayo: "Those signs would say that Columbia County is a county ruled by the rule of law, that we simply want people to be here legally. We're not opposed to the color of their skin. We're not opposed to their ethnic background, to their country of origin. What we want is the proper paperwork in place."
But supporters of Mayo's proposed ordinance were outnumbered at the meeting. Members of the group "Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity" appeared en mass to testify against it.
Organizer Marcy Westerling says her own father was an illegal immigrant from Holland. She says passing Mayo's ordinance would brand small towns like hers as bigoted.
Marcy Westerling: "Four by eight placards that say who's to be excluded and have phone numbers so we can snitch on each other. Certainly that harkens back to the worst of our history as a nation, 'No Blacks allowed,' 'No Jews served.' Let's be better than that."
Westerling says the local cast of characters in the debate over this ordinance goes back years. They've fought over gay rights and other cultural issues.
She says pitched battles in small towns have a tenor of their own.
Marcy Westerling: "We will hash this out in the grocery store or as we bring our kids to Little League ball games. So that lack of anonymity makes it a lot scarier to take a stand. But it also allows us to practice democracy in a much more civil manner. We don't want a culture war. We want a critical dialogue."
But St. Helens and Columbia County aren't the only local governments debating immigrant rights. Similar ordinances are currently under debate in Prince Williams County, Virgina and Bakersfield, Indiana. A year ago, Hazelton, Pennsylvania passed an ordinance that allows the city to turn down a renter who is in the country illegally.
As for Columbia County, Oregon, board chair Rita Bernhart says the budget is already stretched pretty thin to have sheriff's deputies checking out work sites. She's not even sure the proposed ordinance is even legal.
Rita Bernhart: "This, basically, is a federal issue. I think we're pretty limited down at this to do some of the things that we're being asked to do. So I think we need to have some time to maybe mull it over and do some research and see what we can do and what we can't do."
Bernhart doesn't expect a vote any time soon. But anti-immigrant activists aren't stopping with the county. They want the city of St. Helens to consider the same issue.
I lived in St. Helens for twenty years. Wayne Mayo and his daughters painted my folks home. He is decent, Christian and politically conservative, so I’m not surprised he is a law and order guy. The others mentioned I don’t know. But there are no large farms or construction projects in Columbia county that should attract illegal aliens (NOT immigrants as this stupid statement from OPB would have it). Why they’re there is a mystery.
Typical Dem thinking!....All about “HER FEELINGS!!!!”...Nothing to do with the laws of the land...She’d be defending a rapist if her dear old law-breaking dad was one....It truly amazes me how any half-way intelligent person can not see the hypocrisy in that type of thinking...Complete disconnect from any honest regard for ANY principles when it goes against their FEELINGS!
Hopefully that will spread like wild-fire around the country...:o)
Unfortunately, Columbia County is a little too close to Portland to let common sense prevail. No doubt that county has a bunch of Volvo-driving yupsters who commute to Portland skewing the votes.
She's comparing illegal alien lawbreakers to Blacks and Jews? What an idiot!
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