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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Judge Prohibits Anti-Immigrant Measure from Taking Effect in Columbia County

Marcy Westerling, Director, Rural Organizing Project, (503) 543-8417 or (503) 543-3647
D. Michael Dale, Executive Director, Northwest Workers' Justice Project, (503) 357-8290
David Fidanque, Executive Director, ACLU of Oregon, (541) 954-7731

Judge Prohibits Measure 5-190 from Taking Effect

Anti-Immigrant Law on Hold Pending Ruling on its Legality

ST. HELENS, Ore. – Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted E. Grove today issued a preliminary injunction that will prevent an anti-immigrant ballot measure from taking effect on February 2.

Measure 5-190 was approved by voters in November, but was challenged in court by a coalition of Columbia County business owners and voters who are represented by attorneys for the ACLU of Oregon and the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.

Columbia County Commissioners approved amendments to the initiative in December which are also at issue in the court challenge. Judge Grove heard arguments in the case from attorneys for more than 90 minutes on Friday morning and indicated that he was approving the injunction while he reviews the issues in more detail. He did not indicate how soon he would issue an opinion on the many legal issues that have been raised by the measure’s opponents.

The ACLU/NWJP challenge contends that Measure 1-590, which would fine employers for hiring or employing undocumented immigrants:

• Exceeds the powers of Columbia County as granted by the state of Oregon;
• Violates the Single Subject requirement of the Oregon Constitution; and
• Is preempted by existing state laws, as well as land-use statutes and regulations.

The coalition includes Rural Organizing Project, Columbia County Citizens for Human Dignity, Columbia County business owner and resident Gary Liao, CAUSA Immigrant Rights Coalition and others.

“We are delighted with the court’s ruling today,” said Columbia County business owner Gary Liao, “and we are optimistic the court will make the order permanent sometime soon.”

Measure 5-190 relies on E-Verify, a federal database designed to check employees’ names against Social Security records. That database has proven to be very flawed and ineffective. One transposed digit or misspelled name could flag longtime citizens as “illegal.”

“We hope this court action will be resolved soon so that attention on the immigration issue can be re-directed where it belongs: on the federal government’s responsibility to carry out meaningful immigration reform,” said Marcy Westerling, Director of the Rural Organizing Project in Scappoose. “Having a patchwork of local laws seeking to usurp federal authority on this issue will only create more frustration with federal immigration policy.”

Similar measures in Hazelton, Pa.; Farmers Branch, Texas; Escondido, Calif; and other jurisdictions already have been struck down.

Proponent Wayne Mayo, a local building contractor, has said he modeled the measure on Arizona’s Legal Worker Act. While that law has passed some court scrutiny, it still faces continued challenges regarding its constitutionality. Already, the state there has spent more than $75,000 in legal fees defending the law and has budgeted $2.6 million this fiscal year for enforcement and notification.

Attorneys handling the case are: D. Michael Dale, Steven Goldberg and Meg Heaton for Northwest Workers' Justice Project; ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Bruce L. Campbell and Elisa J. Dozono, both of Miller Nash LLP; Stephen W. Manning of the Immigrant Law Group; and Chin See Ming, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oregon. The complaint asks the court to declare Measure 5-190 invalid and award reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.



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