Lately, an anti-immigrant hate group based in my town, McMinnville, Oregon, has received national attention. The Southern Poverty Law Center has put them on their list of hate groups, The Daily Beast has reported their normalization within the Oregon State Legislature, and other anti-immigrant hate groups have stood by their message. This hate group is Oregonians For Immigration Reform (OFIR). OFIR is an organization supported by John Tanton, who founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), another anti-immigrant hate group. Along with FAIR, he also founded the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a research outlet that promoted his anti-immigrant ideas. At times, John Tanton has said that the United States should defend its white European heritage and has espoused pro-eugenics views. This has led OFIR to be labeled as a hate group, due to their to ties to eugenicism and white supremacy.
But, it isn’t their hate group label that has given them the amount of attention they are receiving. It is their sponsorship of Measure 105, an Oregon statewide ballot initiative to repeal Oregon’s more-than-30-year-old sanctuary law, which prohibits any state resources, money, or personnel from being used to enforce federal immigration law. The law was passed to decrease the amount of racial profiling within the criminal justice system and create an environment that allows undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.
Obviously, OFIR’s racism is horrific and despicable, and it ought to be condemned and defeated. However, what people often fail to recognize is OFIR’s constant use of logical fallacies and one-sided media.
What they often resort to is a tactic called “cherry-picking”, where they find one case study or story within a large topic and present it as their reasoning behind their argument. They will find instances such as the Mollie Tibbetts case or something similar, and they will present that as a reason to establish a “zero-tolerance” policy in regards to undocumented immigrants while ignoring that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than citizens. Their response to this reasoning is that undocumented immigration is a federal crime. However, what they fail to recognize is that undocumented immigration is only a civil offense, not a criminal offense. It is a federal offense, but that does not equal a felony. Other examples of civil offenses include speeding tickets and parking tickets. What OFIR fails to recognize is that measuring crime statistics is supposed to reflect criminal convictions that normally result in jail or prison sentences, rather than fines. These logical fallacies represent a problem with such extreme views that rely on case studies, rather than statistics while referencing topics with a large sample size of cases.
Another common tactic that OFIR uses is citing and publishing articles from outlets that favor their agenda, such as their own blog, FAIR, and CIS. It is highly unlikely for OFIR to publish or cite an article from Pew, NBC, Forbes, Cato Institute, NPR, Reuters, Associated Press, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. I am not aware of their stance regarding these outlets, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they referred to these outlets as “Fake News” or “Extremely biased”, given their reputation for being holding extreme views. This supports the idea that OFIR’s flawed rhetoric is unable to be supported by major news networks and mainstream research outlets. Given this level of flawed rhetoric, OFIR is not able to exhibit credibility.
With a lack of credibility and a frequent use of logical fallacies, OFIR is not an organization that should be viewed as legitimate or credible. However, they are being brought into the arena of legitimacy in Oregon politics, and their fringe status should not be taken lightly. Their fringe status has found its way into the very fabric of Oregon politics. Whenever OFIR makes a claim, one ought to question it and present facts and rational rhetoric from credible outlets to dismantle their perceived legitimacy and credibility. Reasonable and thoughtful people can unite on the basis of facts and bring logic to the immigration debate, rather than fear. If we rid ourselves of fear, we can continue to progress as a society.