COQUILLE — Over a dozen sheriffs in Oregon have signed a letter asking voters for their support on repealing the state’s sanctuary law in November.
Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni was among 15 other sheriffs who signed the letter written by Clatsop County Sheriff Thomas Bergin.
The letter released Monday states that the current sanctuary law, which was enacted in 1987, has legitimized and encouraged violations committed by undocumented immigrants through its restricted policing.
Under the current sanctuary law, no law enforcement agency shall use its resources including funds, equipment or personnel to apprehend someone whose only violation of the law is that they are in the country illegally.
“Certainly, immigration-law violations are federal offenses,” Bergin wrote. “But they are precursors to other crimes illegal immigrants routinely commit in their efforts to conceal their illegal presence – crimes, like identity theft, that harm everyday Oregonians at the local level.”
Although the law does not allow for arrest of people solely on their immigration status, it does authorize police agencies to conduct an arrest if an individual has committed a criminal violation or is subjected to an arrest warrant signed by federal magistrate.
Co-director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center Erin McKee responded to Bergin’s letter through a press release Monday.
“We are deeply troubled that elected officials continue to perpetuate the myth of the criminal immigrant,” McKee wrote. “Studies have shown, repeatedly, that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens. There is no factual basis for the assertion that a civil immigration violation leads to a life of crime.”
The Repeal Sanctuary State Law Initiative, also known as Measure 105, calls on the state to repeal its sanctuary statute and allow for law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration violations under the U.S. federal law.
“We need the United States Congress to step up and fulfill their mandate,” said Sheriff Craig Zanni in an email. “Immigration law is the responsibility of Congress, who has failed for years to deal with the issue. We do not need a patch work of different standards from state to state or county to county.”
In the past, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have issued detainer requests to sheriff’s departments throughout the state to hold undocumented immigrants in jails for an additional 48 hours following their release. ICE agents would then take the individuals into federal custody and begin its deportation process.
Under Oregon’s sanctuary law, retaining those individual in jail for simply being undocumented is in direct violation of its statute. In a 2014 lawsuit against Clackamas County, a federal judge ruled that the county had violated Maria Miranda-Olivares’, a non-citizen, Fourth Amendment rights. The jail had honored a detainer request for Miranda-Olivares issued by ICE, which kept her in their custody for an extended period of time while her criminal case was ongoing.
Sheriffs from Gilliam, Harney, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Malheur, Douglas, Curry, Klamath, Union, Grant, Wheeler, Lake and Deschutes counties all signed and endorsed Bergin’s letter. The letter goes on to reference the recent case of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, in which an undocumented immigrant was charged with her murder.
It also included Bergin’s stance on the argument that a repeal of the statute would cause undocumented immigrants to not report crimes for fear of being detained and deported. He also argued against the potential impact of racial profiling of deputies on patrol.
However, Oregonians United Against Profiling, the leading campaign committee opposed to Measure 105, states that a passage of the repeal could cause racial profiling and lead to families being separated based on their perceived immigrant status.
While opinions remain split, Oregon voters will ultimately decide whether or not the initiative will pass come Nov. 6.