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Racist Anti-Immigrant Measure 190 to Get its Day in Court Friday: Support Requested

Last November, sadly, Columbia County voters quietly passed measure 190. While the measure was largely misunderstood and not discussed much, it's one of the most sweeping pieces of anti-immigrant racism to crop up in recent memory. And this Friday, it goes to court.

Please join me there.
Measure 5-190 was voted in to law last November. It imposes staggering penalties on any employer who hires what the man who crafted the measure refers to as "unauthorized aliens." Under the measure, an employer caught hiring someone without proper documentation would be subject to a fine of $10,000, the possibility of license suspensions, probation, and the business could be shut down. Columbia County officials, particularly in county seat St Helens, are starkly opposed to the measure, since it promises enforcement nightmares and economic meltdowns for a poor, working class community that has already been hit hard enough with recession, lay offs, and despair. It also seeks to turn neighbors into snitches.

What 190 does, basically, is to turn Columbia county government into the INS. It charges the County Attorney with investigating complaints, and the county commissioners would have to hold hearings on all violations. These are tasks that have always been done at the federal level, not the county level. County workers are supposed to contact both local police and the INS if they catch wind of any suspected "illegals." The county must also, under the measure, maintain a database of all violations and violators on the county website. While officials have it hard, employers and workers have it even harder. If the measure is upheld, employers would have to verify all workers through the very creepy and shadowy Department of Homeland Security. (The last time DHS showed up in St Helens, it was to investigate a toy shop for the "crime" of allegedly selling knock-off Rubik's cubes.) The money to pay for all this investigating, reporting, data gathering and hearings-holding is to come from the very strapped county general fund. Remember, this is a community whose only major employer, Boise Cascade, recently shut down, laying off hundreds of workers.

This doesn't even touch upon the lives of immigrant workers in this community, both documented and undocumented. Peoples' lives are literally being turned upside down by this measure. I hesitate to say a lot about this here, for fear that someone might read what I write and snitch out people they suspect may be "illegal." Suffice to say, there is very real human fallout for members of my community, and it really sucks. The man who crafted this measure, businessman Wayne Mayo, is the worst sort of bigot, blithely ignorant of the wreckage he has wrought. He eats in restaurants where staff have had to say good bye to family members because of him. He shops in stores where people stand in the back room when he walks in and shake their heads that he would dare come in. He simply has no idea that there is any other way than His in this world. It's truly disgusting.

The worst insult of all is that Mayo claims to have done this out of regard for the Law. He pretends that he cares about what is legal. This is not at all what inspired him to do this. On the contrary, Mayo is a contractor, and he did this purely out of self interest. He did it to get rid of the competition. He is a racist ass who would never hire anyone whose skin was not as flaccidly white as his own. He mostly hires his racist family members. So this was an easy shot at other contractors in the area, particularly those whose family members might be undocumented. Even if they're "legal," they have to prove it. That means harassment and suspicion and guilt by association.

I do not lay all this at Mayo's doorstep. The measure passed. That means there were enough people in Columbia County who were either as racist as he is, or were too lazy to read the fine print. Alas. Sometimes, in a working class community, workers turn on each other and become their own worst enemy. Instead of banding together to take what is rightfully theirs from the exploiters, they let the exploiters (like Mayo) divide them and conquer them. They let people like that convince them that the enemy is the person of color or the poor person or the homeless person, rather than the oppressor. They fight for crumbs beneath the table, rather than banding together to fight for a seat at the feast.

In any event, the measure has been challenged in court, and on Friday the 30th, it will be heard at the Columbia County Courthouse at 10:30am in front of Judge Grove. This is a call to action. If you care about the rights of ALL workers, please join me at the courthouse.

The address and telephone numbers for the courthouse:
Columbia County Courthouse
230 Strand Street, St. Helens, OR 97051
(503) 397-7210 (888) 397-7210

Here is their website:  http://www.co.columbia.or.us/