By now, you know what ALEC is and what it stands for. And you know it
has committees called task forces that bring together corporate representatives and legislators in such a way that the former offer the latter model bills
to introduce in state legislatures. These bills tend to greatly favor corporate interests.
And you also know that in many cases, those businesses make campaign contributions to legislators who, in return, try to make those model bills law.
What you may not know is that two of those task forces, the Civil
Justice and Homeland Security Task Force and the Public Safety and
Elections Task Force have been introducing anti-immigration model
bills since 2008. And all of them found their way into the line of
sight of some of Oregon's more conservative legislators.
Becky Straus Legislative Director with American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon spoke on anti-immigrant legislation introduced in the past few sessions.
HB 2803, introduced by Representative Kim Thatcher in 2011,
"Requires state and county law enforcement to investigate the immigration
status of people who are arrested"
It Contains elements of ALEC Immigration Law Enforcement Act
2011's HB 2805, also sponsored by Representative Thatcher, prohibits
state agencies from providing employment, products, services or
licenses to persons who are not lawfully present in the United
States". It is largely similar to ALEC "Taxpayer and Citizen
2011’s HB 2973 also spawned from ALEC Taxpayer and Citizen Protection
Act, "Requires employer to verify legal status of employee to be
employed in United States through federal E-Verify program prior to
deducting expenses related to worker's employment from Oregon taxable
Its chief sponsors were Representative Bob Jenson and Representative Greg Smith
Yet another descendant from ALEC Taxpayer and Citizen Protection
Act, 2011’s HB 3045 "Requires employer to verify legal status of
employee to be employed in United States through federal E-Verify
program prior to deducting expenses related to worker's employment
from Oregon taxable income"
Its chief sponsor was Representative Mike Schaufler
In 2011, House Bill 2802, sponsored by Representative Kim Thatcher
"Prohibits state restrictions on state agencies and law enforcement in
enforcing Federal Immigration law."
House Bill 2806, which was also sponsored by Representative Thatcher, limits
deductibility of expenses related to employment of workers hired on or
after January 1, 2012, to workers whose eligibility for employment in
United States has been verified through federal E-Verify employment
verification system." HB 2806 and House Bill 2802 both contain
elements of the ALEC Immigration Law Enforcement Act
And finally, 2012's House Bill 4052 was strongly supported by known
ALEC members in the Oregon legislature. Eight of them, including
Representatives Kim THATCHER Representatives Eyre BREWER,
Sal ESQUIVEL, Tim FREEMAN, Sherie SPRENGER, Jim THOMPSON, Gene WHISNANT and Matt WINGARD supported the measure which, among other things, requires state agencies to use the federal E-Verify employment system to
verify employment eligibility of job applicants, report the use of system to the Oregon
Department of Administrative Services and report annually to the legislature on use of E-Verify system by state agencies.
And although HB 4052 failed in 2012, it returned the following year as HB
2358 and was again sponsored by ALEC members Kim Thatcher and Gene
We reached out to Representative Thatcher but our request for an
interview was turned down by her legislative assistant Dawn
Phillips. Dawn said she was uncomfortable with us asking Representative Thatcher about ALEC bills she has introduced.
Kelley Weigel, an Executive Director of Western States Center wrote in
her 2014 piece "How the Right Has (Re)turned":
"2014 will be a heavy ballot measure year across the West. Just as the
American Legislative Exchange Council asserts a conservative agenda
through state policy, state based groups and nationally networked groups
such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform to Americans for Prosperity put
ballot measures out to test public sentiment on the parameters of our
"This year will be no exception to the struggle between those that want to
use the ballot to expand rights and access and those who wish to narrow
who counts as members of our communities deserving of rights, recognition
As we mentioned earlier, the Oregon Legislature looked at a number of
immigration related pieces of legislation
Let's look at one of them in particular, Measure 88, which is on the
November ballot. Measure 88 is what's known as a veto referendum and
is the only one of its kind on the 2014 ballot. A veto referendum is
a response to a measure that has been passed by the legislature but is
being challenged by a special interest group. If they collect enough
signatures, they force the challenge onto the ballot for a citizen vote.
Measure 88, also known as Senate Bill 833 provides driving cards to
the undocumented. It was passed last year by the Oregon legislature
but it limits those driving privileges to four years for the
undocumented in the state. As in a handful of other states, the
driving card cannot be used as proof of identification for air travel,
to enter federal facilities, to vote or as proof of citizenship.
The referendum is managed by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, as well as Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses, both of whom oppose the measure. The ACLU of Oregon favors it.
Oregon State Representatives Kim Thatcher and Sal Esquivel opposed SB 833 and Measure 88.
In the endorsement statement published by Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses Kim Thatcher wrote: "In regards to state issued ID - in the form of driver privilege cards- to illegal aliens, I am talking about adults who have made a conscience decision not to go through the legal process. I am talking about those who made a conscience decision to be here illegally. You have to wonder if someone is willing to disregard immigration laws,
what other laws are they willing to disregard. Our state has determined that driving is a privilege. It is not a right. We should be very careful about who we allow the privilege of driving on Oregon
Now lets expand our focus outside of Oregon to better understand the full scope of AlEC immigration agenda.
A piece of ALEC inspired legislation that has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years was Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, the so called "Show me your papers" law. Many provisions of the "Support Our
Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2012. And House Bill 2802, which was the Immigration Law Enforcement Act failed in the Oregon legislature. But the idea of
providing support and protection to the undocumented here in Oregon has been prominent for awhile.
According to the Ohio Jobs for Justice Political Action Committee website, the Congressional Research Service said that a 1987 Oregon law prohibits local and state law enforcement from using state resources for locating and capturing illegal aliens. Law enforcement was permitted [but not required] to "exchange information" with federal immigration agents if an illegal alien was arrested for a crime.
More recently, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton told Fox 12 that the law unfairly rips families apart and takes up space and time that could be used for more serious crimes.
The site also identifies Multnomah and Marion Counties, as well as the cities of Ashland, Gaston and Portland to be sites of sanctuary for the undocumented.
As near as we could tell, all of the model bills that were introduced between 2011 and 2013 by the Oregon legislature that were inspired by either ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task force or ALEC Civil
Justice Homeland Security Task force failed. But that doesn't mean ALEC influence on the undocumented is unfelt or invisible.
Two big corporate names on the Justice Performance Task Force are Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut. These two are the leaders in the private prison and detention industry and are registered to do business in Oregon. We couldn’t find direct contributions from these two companies to Oregon Legislators. But we found other members of the Justice Performance and the Civil Justice Task Forces that have contributed thousands of dollars to Oregon legislators between 2008 and 2013.
Between 2008 and 2013, Representatives Eyre Brewer, Mike Schauffler, Gene Whisnant, Tim Freeman, and Kim Thatcher received nearly $20,000 in contributions from task force member companies including Pfizer, Georgia Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, the National Rifle Association and the American Insurance Institute.
Corrections Corporation of America is the largest owner of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the United States. CCA currently owns and operates more than 65 facilities including 47 company-owned facilities, with a design capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
For nearly two decades, CCA participated in and even led the Criminal Justice task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Writing in Governing magazine in 2003, Alan Greenblatt states:
“ ALEC has been a major force behind both privatizing state prison space and keeping prisons filled. It puts forward bills providing for mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes sentencing requirements.”
CCA was a member of ALEC for over two decades, and reportedly left the organization in 2010.
Since 2004, the nation's two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have spent over $26 million lobbying the federal government; these corporations and their biggest investors engage in political scheming and lobbying at the state and local level.
In 2012 THE GEO Group had nearly $130 million in contracts with the DHS
(CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA had over $34 million in contracts with the DHS the same year).
According to Jamie Trinkle, “Undocumented immigrants comprised 4.3% (or 160,000 people) of Oregon’s population and 5.3% of the state workforce in 2010. The Portland Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office processes between 12 and 15 immigrants a day, or 3120 to 3900 people each year.
Immigrants held by ICE at the Portland field office are transferred within 24-hours to GEO Group’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. Since 2004, the privately-owned facility has been under contract with ICE to house detainees pending removal process. Under the current contract, ICE must maintain a minimum population of 1,181 detainees at a rate of $100.65 per day. ICE pays GEO $62.52 per day for each detainee exceeding 1,181.
At the Northwest Detention Center, as at most private prison facilities, documented abuses are rampant: overcrowding, abusive strip searches, delayed medical care, and inadequate food. GEO and CCA profit from the detention of vulnerable immigrant communities by understaffing prisons and cutting costs so that basic food and medical needs are not met.”
This report was produced by Yana Maximova with help from KBOO reporters Mike Klepfer, Sam Bowman, Sam Smith and Don Merrill.
Special thanks to Becky Straus of the ACLU of Oregon and Nicholas Bailey. You
can find other reports by the KBOO investigative news team at KBOO.fm/alec .