A Republican politician in Oregon pushing to repeal an immigrant-friendly law is the vice president of an anti-immigrant hate group, the group told The Daily Beast on Monday, despite his previous denial.
Oregon House Rep. Mike Nearman is vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform, an anti-immigrant coalition with ties to eugenicist John Tanton, who has pushed white nationalist politics through a series of anti-immigrant organizations. When the Oregon alt-weekly Corvallis Advocate revealed Nearman’s ties to OIR last week, the politician claimed he was a lowly board member, not vice president.
That’s news to OIR, which told The Daily Beast on Monday that Nearman was very definitely their vice president. OIR and Nearman are spearheading an effort to repeal a 31-year-old Oregon law that prevents state and local police from arresting people whose only crime is being in the country without proper documentation. Prior to Nearman’s vice presidency, OIR’s political action committee gave more than $20,000 to the Repeal Oregon Sanctuary Law campaign committee that Nearman is a member of.
“He’s vice president of OIR,” the group’s communications director Jim Ludwick told The Daily Beast of Nearman. Last week, Nearman denied being vice president, despite being listed as such on the group’s website. He told the Advocate that he was an OIR board member.
“Sometimes the protocols of who’s what and who’s not what gets lost in the shuffle,” Ludwick said, adding that “maybe next meeting we should sit down with badges” explaining their job titles.
Cached versions of OIR’s website reveal Nearman became vice president some time after early March 2017. Nearman did not return voicemail or email messages on Monday.
The post puts him second in command at what the Southern Poverty Law Center and local news organizations have characterized as a hate group. On its website, OIR calls for slashing immigration rates, claiming that current immigration patterns “dissuade assimilation of new immigrants into becoming Americans.” Its actual history is more explicitly racist.
Founded in 2000, OIR was among a wave of local anti-immigrant groups that formed with funding or inspiration from anti-immigrant figurehead John Tanton and his network of organizations. Tanton, a eugenicist and ex-ophthalmologist, has moved millions through anti-immigration groups, including his Federation for American Immigration Reform and its umbrella group U.S. Inc.
Tanton’s writings, some of which remain sealed pending an immigration lawyer’s quest to release them, reveal his white nationalist views.
“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,” he wrote a friend in 1993.
OIR praises FAIR on its website. OIR’s current president, Cynthia Kendoll, spoke at a 2014 conference hosted by The Social Contract Press, a Tanton-founded outlet that publishes white nationalist material. In a 2014 interview with Oregon’s Willamette Week, Kendoll argued that immigrants did not want to become citizens, but were instead interested in “an organized assault on our culture.”
OIR’s demonstrations in Oregon have drawn their own racist crowd, including a 2014 OIR-organized rally against undocumented immigrants, which was attended by members of a white nationalist political party, the SPLC found. OIR also has close ties to the region’s fringe militia movement, rallying alongside a militia leader who has patrolled the border and called Mexican immigrants the “Mexican Klan” and “Mexican Nazis.” Nearman’s predecessor as OIR’s vice president was Richard LaMountain, who has written three pieces for the white nationalist website VDARE.
Now OIR has an Oregon elected official as its vice president.
Even before he had a title with OIR, Nearman was linked to the group. He’s been retweeting the group since January 2017, including a December OIR tweet that linked to a Gateway Pundit article: “Tucker Carlson Unveils ‘Never-Before-Seen’ Statistics Proving Illegal Aliens Commit ‘Massively Disproportionate’ Amount of Crime (VIDEO).”
Nearman is one of three representatives in the Repeal Oregon Sanctuary Law Committee, which is dedicated to ending the law that prohibits state and local police from using their resources on immigrations cases. Between July 2017 and February 2018, OIR’s campaign arm gave Nearman’s committee $21,500, public filing records show. The Oregonian highlighted the first of those donations last August, when it reported that the Tanton-linked U.S. Inc. had given OIR $3,000.
Election experts speculated to The Oregonian that the link to the politically toxic U.S. Inc. could hamper Nearman’s efforts to repeal the sanctuary bill, which, at the time, did not have enough signatures to appear on a ballot. The motion eventually gathered enough signatures, but through a controversial process, during which a number of Oregonians complained that they had only signed a petition in favor of the bill because canvassers misled them about the bill’s contents. Oregonians told the Associated Press that canvassers had told them the bill expanded immigrant rights, and that they refused to show them the text of the bill.
Lee Vasche, the owner of a canvassing company on the Repeal Oregon Sanctuary Law Committee’s payroll, told the AP that one canvasser might have misrepresented the petition, and that the canvassing company had fired two other employees connected to the incident. The canvassing company had purged 400 signatures related to the complaints.“We owned up to that, destroyed them, and moved on,” Vasche said. Oregon’s Justice Department has opened an investigation into at least nine of the complaints.
Nearman has previously defended a staffer, Angela Roman, who was affiliated with a far-right militia, after she was arrested for illegally providing a firearm to a felon, Matthew Heagy, which he carried during a pro-Trump demonstration. Roman and Heagy both reportedly had ties to the far-right Three Percenters militia, which Nearman acknowledged in an interview with The Oregonian.
“I know she’s affiliated with the Three Percenters,” Nearman said. “Other legislators have staff who are affiliated with ‘1000 Friends of Oregon.’” 1000 Friends of Oregon is a left-leaning conservation group.
Nearman told The Oregonian he was unsure whether he attended the rally where Heagy was arrested. The paper found footage of him holding a megaphone for another local Republican official, who was delivering a speech against the media.