Posted on March 14, 2006

Governor Shifts Stance on Aiding Immigrants

Michelle Cole, Oregonian (Portland), March 11, 2006

SALEM — At a time when immigration is a sizzling political issue, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has ordered state agencies not to participate in the Mexican Consulate’s information events.

Kulongoski says he made the decision because the events are not open to all. But the reversal of his previous support for the consulate’s gatherings is causing critics to accuse the governor of a politically motivated flip-flop.

The well-attended events, held around the state over the past several years, have drawn increasing protests from those who say the state should not help illegal immigrants obtain government services. Last year, the protests and growing crowds prompted consulate officials to boost security and require appointments for the events.

The Mexican Consulate will hold more than a dozen Carousel of Information events in Oregon this year to issue “matricula consular” identification cards to Mexican nationals. The consulate does not ask people whether they are U.S. citizens or legal residents of the United States when issuing the cards.

Oregon state agencies started sending representatives to the events in 2000. The state’s purpose was to distribute information in Spanish and English about social services, employment, taxes, worker safety and consumer fraud.

Kulongoski and his staff had vigorously defended participation, saying that agencies are not providing benefits to people who do not qualify. In a Jan. 31 statement, the governor said the events are a good way to reach “a growing, underserved and vulnerable population.”

“I intend to continue with such efforts because I believe it is the right thing to do for all Oregonians,” he wrote.

But on Friday, the governor’s office informed agency directors that the state will discontinue its participation because the events are no longer open to everyone.