In November, vote to maintain Oregon's sanctuary status
Voters in Oregon this November will get the opportunity to cast a ballot regarding the state's long-standing sanctuary laws.
It will be a good opportunity for spirited debate on a hot topic. Debate is good, and so is voting. (See story, Page A7.)
We hope voters wisely retain Oregon's sanctuary status. It's the best thing to do for immigrants. It's the best thing to do for law enforcement officers. It's the best thing to do for all of us.
A quick history: While there is no formal legal definition of a "sanctuary state" (or county or city), the basic meaning is this: Local law enforcement officials are not in the business of seeking undocumented immigrants. That's a federal role. States don't print money. States don't declare war. And states don't enforce immigration rules — those are all federal responsibilities.
In the course of their normal work, state police will not — should not — seek out information on people's citizenship status. The same holds true for sheriff's deputies and city police.
This is not a new-fangled notion: Our state has maintained a sanctuary law since 1987. The Legislature that year passed Oregon Revised Statute 181.850, which prohibits law enforcement officers at the state, county or municipal level from enforcing federal immigration laws that target people based on their race or ethnic origin, when those individuals are not suspected of any criminal activities.
So does this mean that criminality will run rampant under a sanctuary rule?
Not at all.
Says who? Every police chief and district attorney we've ever interviewed on this topic.
Here's why: If, in the course of an investigation into a crime, police discover that someone is in this country illegally, they may take whatever action they so desire.
But, when passing someone on the sidewalk, or when someone who walks into the police station, or during a random traffic stop, police don't ask that. Because it's not germane to day-to-day police business.
If the local cop on the street also is a de facto agent of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, what are the chances that an abused spouse in an immigrant family would report that abuse? Or that a shop clerk born overseas would report theft? Or that an immigrant on the street would report an assault? Zero. Yet policing relies heavily on a simple concept: If you see something, say something. If you're a victim of a crime, report it. If you need help, a police officer should be the person you turn to. If the act of calling for a police officer means you could be thrown out of the country and separated from your family, then nobody would call police officers for any reason.
That's why law enforcement officials in this area have tended to favor sanctuary laws.
This wouldn't even be a hot topic if it wasn't for the fact that Donald Trump made opposition to immigration a primary platform of his successful bid for the White House and a signature focus of his administration.
Not just undocumented immigration, mind you. He's opposed to immigration. Speaking in London earlier this month, the president said immigration has been "very bad for Europe" and the United States, according to a wide array of U.S. and European media who covered his speech. "Look at what's happening to different countries that never had difficulty, never had problems. It's a very sad situation, it's very unfortunate, but I do not think it's good for Europe, and I don't think it's good for our country," he said.
If you give Trump the benefit of the doubt, then that kind of thinking can be put down to a total lack of understanding of American and European history. If you don't give him the benefit of the doubt, it's straight-up racism. Take your pick.
It's like the common argument that immigrant communities commit more crimes, per capita, than non-immigrant communities. False.
Oregon benefits from immigration. The United States benefits from immigration. Full stop. Local law enforcement benefits when all immigrants feel they can call their city, county or state police without fear. Immigrants benefit from knowing police are a safe haven. And we all benefit when each level of government sticks to its lane: We don't want Oregon State Police printing money, and we don't want the United States Border Patrol arresting speeders on Hall Boulevard.
We're not unhappy that the debate will take place before this fall's election. We just hope common sense and the perspective of the law enforcement community trump — pun intended — fear-mongering.