Oregon’s sanctuary status threatens public safety and law enforcement funding (Guest opinion)
BY BILLY J. WILLIAMS
A man who successfully evaded detection and detention by immigration officials is charged with assaulting two innocent women in Portland; his alleged crimes are tragic. That he was able to commit the alleged crimes at all defies the law and insults common sense.
Let me be clear: I am addressing the problem of illegal aliens who commit criminal acts in our state. This is not about lawful alien residents or even about illegal aliens who simply come to Oregon to work. The reality is that criminals who are here illegally are being released into communities throughout the state on a daily basis. Some of these illegal aliens commit more crimes, and because of Oregon’s "sanctuary" declaration, those aliens are not being arrested and prosecuted for violating federal immigration laws.
Oregon sheriffs and other law enforcement officers are caught in the middle of a highly politicized local and national debate over immigration policy. They are not to blame. Their jobs are more difficult as a result of the conflict between state and federal law.
In an effort to cure this impasse, we began meeting with federal, state and local law enforcement partners in 2015, during the previous administration, to discuss federal immigration policy. Our work continues. The goal? To reestablish our common interest in crime prevention and protecting our communities. To accomplish this, we must share information. We must communicate.
Right now, there are sheriffs who do not notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they arrest illegal aliens. Some sheriffs do not disclose basic identifying information such as booking photos, fingerprints, and addresses. Some sheriffs, even after receiving an ICE detainer, will not notify ICE of an impending release.
A narrow reading of what Oregon state law permits – especially as it pertains to information sharing – has proliferated among jurisdictions throughout the state amidst the heightened political climate surrounding immigration issues.
Some sheriffs suggest that, short of ICE agents obtaining a federal criminal arrest warrant, they do not have any legal obligation to share information or hold an individual in custody who is subject to a detainer. This requirement is inherently unreasonable as illegal aliens are frequently held for only a matter of hours. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to obtain a federal criminal arrest warrant without basic identifying information.
Simply put, Oregon’s sanctuary status declaration directly contravenes federal immigration law and threatens public safety. This has put many sheriffs in the position of choosing whether to violate state or federal law. It’s an untenable position. The Department of Justice takes this issue very seriously and has begun to take steps to correct it.
Two weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new immigration compliance requirements for recipients of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs.
The Byrne JAG grant program is the primary source of federal criminal justice funds for state and local jurisdictions and it provides millions of dollars annually for police and sheriffs in Oregon.
Under the new compliance provisions, program participants are required to communicate with ICE, allow ICE agents access to detention facilities to meet with aliens held in custody, and provide at least 48 hours advance notice of any scheduled alien releases. As a result, federal funding for local law enforcement in Oregon is at risk.
My fear is that if our community cannot overcome this politicized legal impasse, we’ll be witness to more preventable crimes. This problem is fixable; we must stop pretending it is not.
The law enforcement community in Oregon enjoys a remarkable history of working together in multi-jurisdictional partnerships to address a host of different crimes and tackle many complex challenges. I invite community leaders and our partners in law enforcement to join us in adopting a pragmatic approach to immigration enforcement.
We need to stand up and work together for public safety. Our communities deserve leadership.
Billy J. Williams is the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.
Man, 48, from Damascus killed in Gresham crash
Robert Stickney Sr., 48 of Damascus, was killed in a crash early Sunday in Gresham.
A 48-year-old man from Damascus was killed in an early morning crash on Sunday in Gresham.
When officers responded to the scene in the 4400 block of Southeast 282nd Avenue, they found the driver dead. He was identified as Robert Stickney Sr. A passenger in the car, who was not identified, sustained non-life threatening injuries.
The Multnomah County vehicular crimes team investigated. Officers said in a release that speed and alcohol contributed to the crash.
The accident closed Southeast 282nd Avenue for four hours between Southeast Powell Valley Road and Division Street.
No other information was released.
— Lynne Terry