When Julieta Cordova declined to leave a tip at a Portland-area restaurant in early October, she didn’t expect her ethnicity to become an issue.
Cordova, a second-year law student at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, decided not to tip after receiving what she described as “poor service.” She asked to speak with management. Cordova then explained her decision to not add gratuity to the manager, who responded by sneering, “This is America, and in America we tip.”
Cordova, a 27-year-old who was born and raised in Oregon, was stunned. She can’t be sure, but she’s confident the comment was a direct response to the color of her skin – brown – which she believes the manager interpreted to mean she was not from the United States and didn’t belong.
Cordova’s experience highlights a growing national trend of immigration issues bulldozing their way to the front of conversations, often in stark – and formerly taboo – ways. Emboldened by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, anti-immigrant groups are popping up everywhere, determined to push forward their agenda – even in reliably blue Oregon.
In November, Oregonians will vote on Measure 105, a ballot initiative that seeks to repeal the state’s sanctuary law protecting immigrants from discrimination and federal immigration laws. It’s the oldest of its kind in the nation and often cited as a pillar of Oregon’s national reputation as a liberal paradise populated by a bunch of tree-hugging progressives.
The local organization pushing the ballot measure has been linked to white nationalism and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Sheriffs from half the counties across the state have backed the initiative, one of four conservative-leaning measures on the November ballot, which also includes an anti-abortion measure.
From a distance, it’s a surprising flurry of right-wing activity for a state that has voted blue in every presidential election since 1988. But look closer, and you’ll see that Oregon, a state that once banned black people from moving in, has a history of divisiveness.
“The people who characterize us as being really liberal,” Cordova said, “they haven’t spent much time in this state.”