Update: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that John Tanton founded NumbersUSA — this was in fact Roy Beck. The article has been updated to reflect Tanton’s role.
Oregonians For Immigration Control is the most dangerous type of white supremacist group: A seemingly legitimate grassroots organization with a foothold in the state House of Representatives. Republican Mike Nearman, Oregon House Representative of District 23, representing areas of Benton, Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties, is listed as the vice president on the OFIR website. Nearman denies holding the position, but admits being on their Board of Directors.
Nearman and OFIR currently have their sights on overturning Oregon’s sanctuary state law with Measure 105. This measure was introduced by Nearman, as well as Sal Esquivel of District 6 (R-Medford), and Greg Barreto of District 58 (R-Pendleton). OFIR led the charge in gathering the required signatures to place the measure on this November’s ballot.
It might be easy to believe that in the 21st Century, a group like OFIR might have gained legislative power in just the last couple of years, but the conventional racism that spawned OFIR has enjoyed power for decades.
OFIR can trace its roots to a doctor and beekeeper named John Tanton, the father of the modern anti-immigrant movement. He viewed overpopulation, predominantly overpopulation from immigrants, to be a threat to the well being of the environment. He initially brought his immigration concerns to groups like the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood. Having not gathered the desired support from these groups, he decided to address the perceived issue on his own terms.
Tanton would go on to found the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Social Contract Press, and the Society for Genetic Education, an organization that promoted eugenics. Tanton also played a nurturing role in the formation of the powerful anti-immigration group NumbersUSA.
“I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” wrote Tanton in 1993.
For decades, Tanton’s network would influence immigration policy with grassroots activism, blatantly false and misleading claims, and funding from sources including the pro-eugenics group, the Pioneer Fund.
Tanton’s work would eventually spawn smaller, statewide groups, such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform. The original incarnation of OFIR was started by Frank Brehm, under the same name but abbreviated OIR. OIR’s site was hosted online by New Nation News, which can be best described as a Klan meeting on dial-up Internet. The announcement that OIR’s archives would be moved to the new OFIR site can still be viewed at http://www.newnation.org/
Regardless of its roots on New Nation News, OFIR has continued its relationship with white supremacy largely unchallenged. Former vice president of OFIR, Richard LaMountain, has contributed writings to the white nationalist website VDARE on three occasions, his most recent in 2016, titled “Oregonians Have Already Shown Immigration Issue Can Carry State For Trump.” This wordy headline may sound tame compared to those of other articles that have been featured on the site, including “One Problem With These Hispanic Immigrants Is Their Disgusting Behavior,” and “America Does Not Need ANY Immigrants From Africa.” LaMountain’s writings have also been featured in racist publications such as Middle American Man, and American Free Press. While LaMountain is reportedly no longer the vice president of OFIR, he was involved in Measure 105, according to Rep. Nearman.
OFIR has also been affiliated with Oregon’s militia movement. In 2000, OFIR joined with the Minutemen Defense Corps to send so-called “patrols” to intimidate day-laborers looking for work.
None of this is breaking news; OFIR’s connection to organized racism has been public information for quite some time. In August of 2017, during the initiative petition phase of Measure 105, The Oregonian reported that OFIR accepted funding from U.S. Inc, the John Tanton foundation behind the white nationalist publication Social Contract Press.
Current OFIR President, Cynthia Kendoll, was interviewed by the Willamette Weekly in 2014. “We are told all the time that people come here and want to become Americans,” she said. “I don’t think they’re interested in becoming U.S. citizens. It’s just an organized assault on our culture.”
Kendoll also spoke at a Social Contract Press writers workshop conference, where she led with thanking K.C. McAlpin, a close associate of John Tanton. Her transcribed presentation was subsequently published on the VDARE website.
OFIR’s casual relationship with white supremacy has not affected its seat at the public policy table. In 2014, they were heavily involved in defeating Measure 88, a law that would have granted driver’s licenses to people without birth certificates, parolees, and undocumented immigrants.
In 2017, OFIR was designated an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. OFIR has addressed the SPLC by highlighting a recent mistake by the organization, resulting in a lawsuit. OFIR has generally addressed it’s critics in many blog posts on its website. One of these posts is titled “Open-Border Marxists Resort To Childish Name Calling,” where they explain that their label as racist as nothing more than an ad hominem attack. Please take a moment to let that sentence sink in. This post does not mention any of the group’s publicly verifiable connections to white nationalism. In other posts, they link an attack on the SPLC, published in the Social Contract Press, and also write: “We clearly have the ‘deep-state’ opposition to immigration controls worried.”
Despite all of this, OFIR continues to be granted legitimacy by the media, the state legislature, and ultimately, the voters. The group, like its FAIR predecessor, publicly positions itself as non-violent grassroots organization—a group of respectable citizens, merely concerned with the issue of immigration. Even in their patronizing slogan, “Advocating for an environmentally sustainable level of immigration,” OFIR paints itself as an honest player in Oregon’s welfare. Look just a little closer, however, and Oregonians for Immigration Reform’s place in the American culture of white supremacy is clear.
To read the more about hate groups in Oregon, click here to read this article’s companion piece, Oregon Hate Groups Exposed.
By Jay Sharpe