Student Signatures Collected for Anti-immigrant Ballot Initiative

By Juan Lacayo|February 26, 2018Announcements, News, Student Writing, Sylvania, Top Stories|

Student Signatures Collected for Anti-immigrant Ballot Initiative

Juan Lacayo

Petitioners from an organization identified as “Ballot Access” on a PCC Space Use Application and User Agreement form collected student and faculty signatures at PCC Sylvania on January 23. They allegedly operated under the vague auspices of “immigration reform,” however sources noted to The Bridge that the measures for which they sought support were actually anti-immigrant.

CORRECTION: The February 21 edition of The Bridge alluded to a connection between the petitioners on a PCC campus and a Lawrenceville, GA petition drive management company called National Ballot Access. Company President Edee Baggett contacted The Bridge and denied any connection between the two organizations. This version has been updated to reflect this.

A search through the Oregon Business Registry reveals that the organization registered as Ballot Access is owned by Lee J. Vasche, the current treasurer of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. The first “headline” entitled “Stop Oregon Sanctuaries” introduces OFIR’s petition drive to invalidate Oregon’s sanctuary status. It is clear what agenda they are pushing here yet, in numerous cases around Portland, petitioners working for their affiliate, Ballot Access, have relied on baiting signers by promising that their petition would, according to eyewitnesses, “make Portland a sanctuary city.”

On January 23, PCC Learning Garden Coordinator Venus Barnes first noticed the Ballot Access table at Sylvania on her regular walking circuit around campus. She noted that the two petitioners, who were not PCC students, set up their table outside of the “free speech area” and were around the corner from an exhibit that displayed a short history of Black America. The question “Do you want Oregon to stay a ‘sanctuary state’?” piqued her interest and earned hers and many other signatures. Barnes noted that she had not fully read the information the petitioners handed her.

After a conversation with Miguel Arellanos Sanchez of the Sylvania Multicultural Center, Barnes discovered the petitioners’ true motives: to gather signatures for a ballot measure to put Oregon’s sanctuary status to a vote, a move that would challenge the law passed by the Oregon Senate (29-1) and House (58-1) in 1987, which was signed into law by then-Governor Neil Goldschmidt. Barnes later returned to the petitioners’ table in time to hear them use the same vague statements to gather two more student signatures. Barnes informed the students of the true intentions behind their campaign before requesting the form with her signature and revoking her support.

Students, with the help of the Multicultural Center, created signs reading “Do you want sanctuary status?” and “Do you know what you’re signing?” then set up a table adjacent to the Ballot Access table. Shortly after the counter-campaign began, the Ballot Access petitioners decided to leave PCC. Arellano Sanchez noted that the Ballot Access table was set up in the same spot the day before and estimated that they were there most of both January 22 and 23. He and Barnes noticed a few pages with signatures during their contact with Ballot Access. The fate of those signatures and how many were obtained by deception has not been confirmed by The Bridge.

As of February 21, administration officials indicated that this was an isolated incident, citing the recent backlog of Space Use Applications and User Agreement forms, as well as communications with the campus scheduling offices. However, around midday on February 26, Cascade student Isaac Byrd reported witnessing canvassers misrepresenting the same cause by using “vague and misleading statements” in front of the Cascade library.

Byrd noticed the petitioners and what he deemed to be a fairly large crowd of interested students, some of which were signing the petition. Curious about what issue was being represented, Byrd asked the petitioners what the official title of the initiative they were advancing was. He concluded that they were either unwilling to reveal the title or did not know the information he sought as they “walked around the question.” Byrd then looked researched the upcoming initiatives related to sanctuary status and found only one: to repeal Oregon’s sanctuary status (IP 6, 22).

The tactics used by Ballot Access and organizations like it seem to be widespread. With petition fraud perpetrated in Michigan by petition drive management groups like Silver Bullet, as well as allegations of fraud in Arizona and Colorado by others, it is imperative that space-granting institutions like PCC do their best to ensure that organizations like Ballot Access are forthright about the causes they are trying to further. If not to stem the flow of insidious hate speech, then at least to avoid being associated with the antiquated and xenophobic actions they claim to eschew.

Community Relations Manager Celina Baguiao reported that the Sylvania Scheduling Office received complaints about the petitioners the day after their campaign, which prompted an investigation by the office of the Dean of Students. She noted that if anyone “believes there has been a violation of the college’s Expressive Conduct Policy by any user” that they should contact the campus administration through the PCC Complaint process.

Sylvania Dean of Student Development Heather Lang informed The Bridgethat the school cannot do anything about the signatures that the petitioners collected, but that the school pledges to “exercise their authority to deny access to expressive conduct activities from this group in the future if it is determined they violated the college’s Expressive Conduct Guidelines.”

The penalty in Oregon for making false statements to anyone who signs a petition or who makes information requests about it may result in a felony conviction and fines of up to $125,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

Community Relations Manager Celina Baguiao reported that the Sylvania Scheduling Office received complaints about the petitioners the day after their campaign, which prompted an investigation by the office of the Dean of Students. She noted that if anyone “believes there has been a violation of the college’s Expressive Conduct Policy by any user” that they should contact the campus administration through the PCC Complaint process.

Sylvania Dean of Student Development Heather Lang informed The Bridgethat the school cannot do anything about the signatures that the petitioners collected, but that the school pledges to “exercise their authority to deny access to expressive conduct activities from this group in the future if it is determined they violated the college’s Expressive Conduct Guidelines.”

The penalty in Oregon for making false statements to anyone who signs a petition or who makes information requests about it may result in a felony conviction and fines of up to $125,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

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Juan Lacayo

About Juan Lacayo

It’s difficult to describe my academic path because I haven’t figured out how to merge my interests into a degree program. I’m currently enrolled in the Multimedia Studies program in the hopes that I can gain the skills to cobble together a career with a Vice News or Radiolab type of organization as a storyteller. My interests include: music (jazz, electronic, hip hop, etc.), cinema, reading deviant or counterculture literature, comedy, social justice, and attempting to understand cultural and individual idiosyncrasies. My passions include: writing fiction, riding and working on bikes, and capturing the world through the “Juan” filter. I’m one of the lead bakers with Blue Star Donuts, which means that I have my hands in just about everything on the production side of the operation. On any given day, I could be making the dough, rolling out and cutting doughnuts, frying and finishing doughnuts, or making the magical potions that comprise our glazes, garnishes, and fillings. This type of position suits me, as I fancy myself a Jack-of-all-Trades, and I like to keep busy. Whatever I’m involved in, I like to have a hand in as many things as my expertise will allow. I love learning new things.