By Darren Pike
The controversial group Oregonians for Immigration Reform had its turn to speak at Chemeketa’s pizza and politics meeting this past week.
The mood in the Multicultural Center was tense as OFIR members Cynthia Kendall and Jim Ludwig began with opening comments about their opinions on U.S. immigration policies before taking questions from students and staff.
Peter Starr, Chemeketa’s civic engagement coordinator, mediated the event.
“After our guests have given their presentation, in a civil and orderly fashion you will all have the chance to ask our guests questions. Let’s keep this a very civil and obviously non-violent event. This is a very sensitive subject in this community as well as in the United States right now,” he said.
Kendall, the newly elected president of OFIR, began the town hall-style meeting by saying, “The first step to solving this problem is everyone becoming informed. There is a lot of misinformation out there; the more that we talk about these problems that we face, the better off we’ll be,” she said.
Ludwig said in his opening statement: “We feel that present immigration levels, both legal and illegal, are too high to sustain – environmentally, socially, fiscally, and politically. We advocate for strong border enforcement to the point where we believe a physical barrier should be put up on our side of the border, and we are opposed to any amnesty.”
Full-time student Matthew Rauch, who attended the meeting, asked: “If you had a magic wand and could solve the immigration issue, what would you do if you were in charge of the immigration system? What would you do to all of the women, children, straight A students, and hard -working taxpayers who are undocumented citizens?”
Ludwig said in response, “First of all, I don’t believe people who are here illegally pay any taxes whatsoever. But let’s say they do. … So what? If a bank robber pays taxes on his ill-gotten goods, does that make it right?”
Rauch replied, “Well, that … didn’t really answer my question, but what I asked you was, not whether or not they pay taxes, but what would you do to fix the issue?”
Kendall responded, “It’s a complicated issue.”
Kendall went on to say that she recently was at the Oregon Legislature, waiting to testify, when a young man approached her and said that he had been brought to the United States from Mexico when he was 16 months old and that he didn’t think that it was fair for him to be punished. She said she told him that she was in her country, and he needed to return to his.
As tense as the mood was during the OFIR presentation, the consensus among those who were present was that Chemeketa students remained calm when they were asking the presenters questions; there were no outbursts during the meeting.
“I was happy about the level of civility and respect that students and staff displayed at the event,” Star said.
The next pizza and politics meeting will feature CAUSA, the Oregon Immigrant Rights Coalition. It will take place on Thursday, May 12, in the Multi-Cultural Center in Bldg. 2. Students are encouraged to attend and share their views and opinions.
Starr said, “College campuses should be a place where ideas can be shared and observed in a safe environment, regardless of how popular or volatile they may be, and I am proud that Chemeketa is a place where we can have difficult discussions about the dynamic and changing world around us.”
If you have questions regarding the Pizza and Politics meetings, or would like more information about the Multi-cultural Center, stop by the Student Life window in Bldg. 2.