M105 opponents, supporters gird for Hillsboro debate
Its supporters say approval of Ballot Measure 105 would unshackle police and prosecutors to go after people suspected of crimes, regardless of their immigration status.
But Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton and Sheriff Pat Garrett say voters should reject Measure 105, which would repeal the 31-year-old law that keeps state and local officials out of federal immigration-law enforcement.
A month after the measure qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot, Barton and Garrett came out in opposition to repeal. So have their counterparts in Multnomah County, although sheriffs in 18 mostly rural counties have announced they support repeal.
Barton, who took office in July following the retirement of longtime District Attorney Bob Hermann, said he spoke out because some statements about the 1987 law are just plain wrong.
The law allows police and prosecutors to check the immigration status of someone who is arrested for a crime — being in the United States illegally by itself is treated as a civil infraction — and it permits them to share information about foreign-born nationals in jail. The Sheriff's Office, which manages the 572-bed jail in Hillsboro, issues daily lists of inmate bookings and releases.
"There are people who claim the current law does not allow cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or does not allow the reporting of crimes by people who are here illegally," Barton said in an interview with the Pamplin Media Group. "That's flatly not true."
Barton said he believes the current law has not hindered police or prosecutors from doing their jobs — but its repeal would.
"Our concern is that if the current law is repealed, there might be immigrants who are less likely to report crimes, obtain services, or even show up at the courthouse to testify," Barton said. "The other concern is that if that population feels a chilling effect, it makes them even more vulnerable to criminals as targets.
"It was a reason I came forward," he added. "There is a direct connection between this law on the books and public safety. When there is a direct connection, I feel it's my obligation to educate the community about what that connection is."
Garrett, through a spokesman, said he will speak against Measure 105 Thursday night, Oct. 11, at a Washington County Public Affairs Forum program at the Hillsboro Civic Center.
Measure 105 was sponsored by three state representatives — Greg Barreto of Cove, Sal Esquivel of Medford and Mike Nearman of Dallas, all Republicans — and is supported by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, a group that supports stricter enforcement.
Richard LaMountain of Cedar Mill is a former vice president of the group and one of two scheduled to speak in favor of repeal at the Washington County forum.
"Illegal-immigrant crime can and does harm Oregonians profoundly," LaMountain said. "And yet, thanks to the warped logic of Oregon's sanctuary law, the fact that illegal immigrants are here illegally is what can render them off-limits to law enforcement's scrutiny."
So far, Oregonians United Against Profiling has amassed $1.1 million to oppose Measure 105, compared with $42,500 raised by the Repeal Oregon Sanctuary Law Committee. The Secretary of State's Office lists other groups involved in the campaign.
Oregonians for Immigration Reform prevailed four years ago, when it sponsored a successful campaign to overturn a 2013 law allowing Oregonians to receive driver cards without proof of legal presence in the United States. (Licenses require such proof.) Measure 88 won majorities in all counties but Multnomah.
The political dynamics are different now. A "yes" vote would repeal the 1987 law; a "no" vote would keep the law.
Washington County, Oregon's second-most populous, is also the most diverse of the state's largest counties. About one-third of its 600,000 people are from racial and ethnic minorities, and one in every six was born outside the United States.
Measure 105 opponents argue that voter approval would open the way for racial profiling, the practice of using race or ethnicity to identify someone who may have committed a crime.
LaMountain termed that argument "preposterous."
"Overwhelmingly, our police officers and sheriff's deputies are people of uncommon integrity, sworn to treat everyone — whatever their race, nationality or creed — equally under the law," he said. "On top of this, they receive substantial anti-profiling training."
Barton said that without further legal guidance, law enforcement agencies would be left hanging if Measure 105 passes.
"The sheriff and I are concerned that in doing away with this law that has been on the books for three decades ... what will come in its place is a vacuum — and a patchwork of inconsistent regulations," he said. "That creates a danger that affects citizens and non-citizens alike."
Barton described a spate of burglaries in Beaverton in which a man broke into multiple homes to steal women's underwear and commit sexual assaults against women. Investigators found that one of the residents had confronted the suspect during one of the break-ins.
"But she had not reported the crime because she was afraid that as a crime victim, she could suffer immigration-law consequences if she had reported he was doing this," Barton said. "That is an example where a crime victim, because of concern about immigration consequences, did not call the police — and it led to a second person being victimized and threatened. That is the exact scenario we are trying to avoid."
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