By Kenneth W. Matlack
I would like to express my opinion as to how some of the illegal immigration issues in Morrow County have gotten to this point. These comments are my personal beliefs after nearly 40 years of law enforcement experience mostly in Morrow and Umatilla counties.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Morrow and Umatilla County experienced the start of the great southern border migration. This transformation was largely due to the advent of circle pivot irrigation systems. With circle pivot irrigation and new water sources, farming turned a mostly desert environment into nothing less than a Garden of Eden.
The soil and growing season could grow just about anything. I believe it changed our agricultural system dramatically and was a new source of income and employment. We had development in the abundance of more crops and newly developed processing plants in both Morrow and Umatilla counties where farming and farm work became a new source of income both for owners and the labor force that worked the industry. The traditional transient legal Mexican laborers became a labor force of growing numbers of illegal workers that were staying and working illegally.
The blame of the long-term problem with illegal immigration rests with our federal government from both political parties.
I am not against illegal immigrants, I am against illegal immigration. We are a nation of laws and I have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of my state. So have many other thousands of elected city, county, state and federal officials, including all elected members of our federal government.
Do I blame the illegal immigrants for coming to America for a better life? No. Did they break the law? Yes. Do I expect 12 million people to be deported for their crime? No.
I see the need to develop a federal plan that allows legal status for a path for citizenship and temporary work, and removal for the many others who have committed crimes or acts that would disqualify them from being allowed to stay, and they should be deported. This cannot occur until our southern border is secure and it should be our No. 1 priority. This is not to say that the border must be totally secure before the process can begin but the border must have the resources, manpower and equipment to secure it now. This is not a separate issue as expressed by the editorial board, it is the issue.
Our broken immigration system is the responsibility of our federal government and they are responsible for the problems we have today.
I have been to Washington, D.C., two times in the last couple of years to participate in a program where various sheriffs from around the country went to speak to radio talk show audiences from across the country on the issue of our broken immigration system in efforts to get our federal officials to make real bipartisan change.
We have held our own news conferences, but I believe the word has not been spread enough to educate the voters who have the power to cause the changes that need to be made in our broken immigration system. It is obvious our federal government has not done its job and more voters need to be informed that this is the time for bipartisan change to repair this broken and inadequate system.
I have been to the southern border in Texas twice to see for myself what it is really like, and attended training by Texas law enforcement officers and others dealing with border crime from drugs, human smuggling and gross and heinous crimes being committed by the Mexican cartels. Many of our large illegal marijuana grows in the national forests in Oregon, including Morrow County, are Mexican drug cartel-run. It continues to grow with many of our national intercity gangs being paid and directed by the cartels as well.
Measure 88 would be part of the problem. It is a local effort to fix a federal problem. Some states try it this way and others try it that way. It is a jerry-rigged system to fix a problem that has been caused by years of neglect by our federal government and it needs to be comprehensively changed but not by measures like 88.
Vote no and make real change happen by holding our representatives feet to the fire by our votes and new bipartisan leadership to make the changes we need now.
Kenneth W. Matlack is sheriff of Morrow County.