Anti-Immigration Group Sends Oregon Sheriffs To DC

By Emily Cureton Cook (OPB)
John Day, Ore. Sept. 25, 2019 2:15 p.m.
Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack

Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack

Morrow County Sheriff's Office

An anti-immigration group is paying for two Eastern Oregon sheriffs to attend political events in Washington, D.C., this week.


Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said that he and Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack were the only Oregon sheriffs going to the capital for a “training in regards to some of the immigration policies.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, confirmed covering travel expenses for 191 sheriffs to convene on Capitol Hill Wednesday for "Badges and Angels," a press conference with the relatives of people killed by undocumented immigrants, or “angel families.”

FAIR lobbies to curtail immigration. Its leaders have been accused of making racist statements and spreading anti-immigrant propaganda, such as connecting increases in local crime to undocumented people. Non-partisan researchers analyzing FBI data recently found no such link.

FAIR spokesman David Ray said in an email: “America’s sheriffs are the frontline of public safety and are often the first to encounter criminal aliens and the carnage that some of them leave behind.”


Ray added: “Sheriffs who have shown the most interest in immigration are among those who were invited.”

Palmer said while in D.C. he plans to meet with senators, congressional representatives, “and we've actually got a White House briefing.”

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer

Oregon State Sheriff's Association 

Angel families have appeared at dozens of Trump events over the last few years, as the president justified his administration's punitive immigration policies, such as family separation.

When asked if undocumented immigrants are a problem for law enforcement in remote Grant County, Oregon, Palmer said no. He estimated that in the two decades he’s been sheriff, there’s never been a non-citizen booked in the local jail.

Matlack did not return requests for comment.

FAIR has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit best known for legal cases against extremist and white supremacist organizations.

When FAIR founder John Tanton died over the summer, SPLC's responded with a lengthy piece exploring his influence, saying Tanton's "legacy is difficult to overstate."

Tanton was also a co-founder of the Center for Immigration Studies, which in 2010 published a paper calling SPLC's hate group designation a "smear."