Oregon’s ‘sanctuary’ law is under threat

Daniel Nichanian

President Trump’s aggressive approach toward immigration enforcement is echoing in Oregon. On November’s ballot is Measure 105, a referendum that would repeal the state’s “sanctuary” law (ORS 181A.820).

Oregon adopted its sanctuary law in 1987 to prohibit local law enforcement from “detecting or apprehending” individuals over their immigration status. An impetus behind the law was to bar deputies from profiling people based on who they suspect might be undocumented. Repealing this law would expand local law enforcement’s ability to help federal immigration authorities arrest undocumented immigrants. Measure 105 is championed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that favors severe immigration restrictions.

The sheriffs of Oregon’s three largest counties (Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas) all oppose Measure 105. Washington’s sheriff, Pat Garrett, co-wrote an op-ed defending the “sanctuary” law in August. A group of sheriffs representing smaller, more rural counties endorsed repeal in August through a statement that ties illegal immigration to criminality; they write that immigration law-violations are “precursors to other crimes illegal immigrants routinely commit in their efforts to conceal their illegal presence.” Numerous studies contradict such a connection.

What is striking about this repeal push is that Oregon’s sanctuary law does not even affect local law enforcement’s ability to partner with federal authorities when it comes to people already jailed on grounds others than immigration. Oregon’s sheriffs can notify ICE when they detain foreign-born individuals—and Garrett himself engages in this practice daily, The Oregonian reported.

Many of the recent debates about how to restrict local cooperation with ICE (for instance in Minneapolis or Orange County, California) have focused on going an extra step and restricting local officials’ cooperation with ICE even within jails.


Update: Measure 105 was rejected by voters on Nov. 6, 2018.