A top Multnomah County Sheriff's Office official was among 60 from across the country to attend a "border school and tour" hosted by an anti-immigration group labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group."
A photo of Multnomah County Undersheriff Tim Moore attending the National Sheriffs Border School and Tour in El Paso, Texas, was posted on the Facebook page of the Oregonians for Immigration Reform—a group that on its website says "is concerned about the consequences of mass immigration, both legal and illegal, into the United States."
The photo features Moore and Morrow County Sheriff Kenneth Matlack on each side of Oregonians for Immigration Reform President Cynthia Kendoll.
The caption read: "Sixty sheriffs from around the country gathered to learn 'What happens on the border, doesn't stay on the border.' It was a hair-raising experience for everyone in attendance, especially those sheriffs not familiar with border issues. OFIR salutes the two Oregon sheriffs who attended the event to learn more about how they can protect us from this growing threat."
The tour, held Sept. 21 and Sept. 22, was sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a sponsor of many of the controversial immigration enforcement laws in Arizona, Alabama and elsewhere.
Moore's attendance at the tour raises several big questions, said Francisco Lopez, executive director of Causa Oregon, a statewide immigrant rights association.
Lopez said his group has been struggling to work with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office on several issues, including federal immigration holds.
"Knowing that Tim Moore was participating in an event with an anti-immigration group from here in Oregon, does that mean the sheriff has an understanding with anti-immigration groups?" Lopez questioned. "Is (Moore) the right man for this job, considering he is having ideological ties with an anti-immigration group?"
"I just don't know," Lopez said, adding an investigation of the department's top officials may be in order. "It's making me feel very uncomfortable."
Staton issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon, stressing that neither he nor Moore hold anti-immigration views.
"I want to be clear that Undersheriff Moore, nor I, nor the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office are members of or affiliated with either the Federation for American Immigration Reform or Oregonians for Immigration Reform," Staton said. "Further, we do not endorse any ideology or agenda specific to these groups. I sent the Undersheriff on official business specific to information gathering regarding border security issues that will inform me on local public safety issues including local immigration enforcement, drug abatement and human trafficking."
Staton said his interest in the tour was gaining a thorough understanding of human trafficking and illegal immigration enforcement issues "through comprehensive information gathering and dialogue to better inform him on public policy discussions and implementation as he continues to address these issues that affect public safety in our county communities."
The statement did not say how much public money was spent on Moore's trip to El Paso.
Reached at her Salem home, OFIR's president, Kendoll, said she strongly disagrees with the characterization of FAIR as a hate group. She said her work has nothing to do with race and everything to do with national security and jobs.
"The fact of the matter is we have foreign nationals in our country and they have become emboldened by advocates who tell them they have rights," Kendoll said. "The tell them the should should demand tuition, they should demand a driver's license, they should demand entitlements."
FAIR paid for the course, meals and transportation to the border; participants were expected to cover airfare and lodging, Kendoll said.
She said that last week's tour in El Paso brought issues to the attention of law enforcement that were "very graphic and very disturbing."
The violence from Central America is "percolating up to our border," Kendoll said, and the style are changing to "real radical Islam, Middle East techniques, with the intimidation and the tortures."
She said she was "tickled" that Moore came, and said that Portland is plagued with issues of drug and cartel violence.
In North Carolina, the tour drew attention this summer when The (Burlington) Times News reported that FAIR's National Border School and Tour misrepresented federal support for this month's event. The Times-News reported on July 26: "FAIR sent invitation emails to law enforcement agencies earlier this month with information about the training program using (the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program)'s logo to endorse it.
FAIR's invitation also stated "This is a HIDTA-approved event, and may be covered by your agency's HIDTA funding."
The newspaper also reported Rafael Lemaitre, associate director for public affairs at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Monday that the border school is not sanctioned, co-hosted, or endorsed by HIDTA. HIDTA is a program facilitated through the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.