Police: Hillsboro reviewing ICE subpoena
As it steps up efforts to obtain information about people it suspects of being in the United States illegally in so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week served the Hillsboro Police Department with a subpoena.
ICE said Friday, Feb. 21, that it is seeking information it believes Hillsboro possesses on a suspect that a police department spokesperson identified as Jose Fajardo-Alvarado.
According to court records, Fajardo-Alvarado pleaded guilty in late December 2019 to drunken driving. He pleaded guilty to the same offense in another court case in Washington County in 2000. He is currently being held at the Washington County Jail.
ICE previously issued a similar subpoena to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, along with a second subpoena. The Sheriff's Office said last Tuesday, Feb. 18, that it will comply with the subpoenas as required by federal law.
Sgt. Clint Chrz, a spokesperson for the Hillsboro Police Department, said the city is reviewing the subpoena it received Friday and has not yet determined how it will respond. He noted, however, that if the subpoena is deemed to be a court order, it carries the weight of law.
Washington County determined it was legally obligated to provide the information ICE sought in subpoenas last week.
"Oregon law prohibits local police from sharing certain information for purpose of enforcement of federal immigration laws, except as provided by state or federal law," the Washington County Sheriff's Office said in a statement last Tuesday. "The information sought in these subpoenas relates to information that local police are generally prohibited from sharing under Oregon law and failure to comply with these subpoenas may be punished by an order of contempt by a federal judge."
As Oregon Public Broadcasting, a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, reported last week, ICE's use of subpoenas appears to be a tactic aimed at circumventing Oregon law that prohibits state and local law enforcement resources from being used to enforce federal immigration law. ICE has used subpoenas similarly in other "sanctuary" jurisdictions, such as New York and California.
"ICE will not be governed by dangerous sanctuary laws and community leaders who put politics over public safety to interfere with our mission to remove dangerous criminal aliens from the community," said Michael Melendez, acting field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Seattle, in a statement Friday.
Bryan Wilcox, Melendez's deputy, stated Tuesday that sanctuary laws are "politically motivated" and hamstring local police.
"These irresponsible laws and policies not only unnecessarily pit federal and local law enforcement officers against each other, but provide a refuge for criminal aliens who prey on people in their communities," Wilcox said.
Oregon voters decisively rejected Ballot Measure 105 in 2018, which would have effectively repealed the state law making Oregon a so-called sanctuary. Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and District Attorney Kevin Barton publicly weighed in against Measure 105, which was backed by some other sheriffs and district attorneys in mostly rural Oregon counties.
In a jointly written commentary published in the News-Times in August 2018, Garrett and Barton predicted that repealing the law would "create a chilling effect in our community."
"Certain members of the immigrant population may be less likely to report crimes, to access justice services such as restraining orders, or to even appear in court and testify as witnesses," they wrote. "Immigrant communities and families may become greater targets for criminals because they may be less likely to come forward or appear in court to testify."
However, Garrett and Barton also noted that the law doesn't prohibit local law enforcement in Oregon from sharing information about people convicted of a crime with federal immigration authorities.
Agencies like the Washington County Sheriff's Office are also bound by a federal court ruling in Portland six years ago. In 2014, a U.S. magistrate judge ruled that the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office had violated a woman's rights when it held her in jail on an ICE detainer after she had completed her court-ordered sentence.
ICE has criticized Garrett's office and others for not honoring requests by the federal agency to hold people on detainers since the court decision. Garrett has argued that the Sheriff's Office is following the law.
"Delaying the release of any individual is a constitutional violation on our behalf," the Washington County Sheriff's Office said in a December 2019 statement, responding to a press release from ICE criticizing the county for allowing a manslaughter suspect to post bail.
In that case, Alejandro Maldonado-Hernandez was arrested after being involved in a fatal crash in Aloha in July 2019. The following month, he posted bail and reportedly fled to Mexico.
ICE's use of subpoenas seems to have the endorsement of Billy Williams, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon. Williams told OPB that he personally contacted each agency that ICE served with a subpoena last week to let them know that federal authorities sought information from them and would issue subpoenas to obtain it.
"We're prepared to do what we do, which is go to court," Williams told OPB. "If we need to go to court, we'll do that."
The Oregon State Police also received a subpoena, according to ICE, as did sheriff's offices in Clackamas and Wasco counties. The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office was served with two subpoenas, ICE said.
"ICE uses statutorily authorized administrative subpoenas to obtain information as part of investigations regarding potential removable aliens. ICE has not historically needed to use its lawful authority to issue these subpoenas to obtain information from other law enforcement agencies as most law enforcement agencies throughout the country willingly provide ICE with information regarding aliens arrested for crimes in the interest of public safety," the federal immigration enforcement agency said in a statement on its website.
It continued, "ICE is using every tool available to obtain information regarding the whereabouts and other relevant information regarding removable aliens (both in the custody of local jails and at large) from jurisdictions that are unable to, or chose not to, cooperate with ICE."
Local and state officials have also criticized a tactic that ICE has used in Hillsboro and other cities, in which ICE officers are stationed in or near county courthouses to detain suspects as they enter or leave.
In one incident that was caught on video in 2017, a Washington County employee and U.S. citizen was stopped and questioned for several minutes by ICE agents before they apparently realized he was not the suspect they were seeking. The employee, Isidro Andrade Tafolla, filed a claim for damages against ICE in August 2019.
In November 2019, Chief Justice Martha Walters of the Oregon Supreme Court prohibited civil arrests without a warrant or court order "when the individual is in a courthouse or within the environs of a courthouse." ICE responded by saying it would not respect the rule, even suggesting ICE could attempt to press charges against anyone enforcing it.
"Despite attempts to prevent ICE officers from doing their jobs, ICE will continue to carry out its mission to uphold public safety and enforce immigration law, and consider carefully whether to refer those who obstruct our lawful enforcement efforts for criminal prosecution," an ICE spokesperson said at the time.
Editor's note: Oregon Public Broadcasting, a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, contributed to this report. This story has been updated with more background on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's operations in Washington County.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
Follow me on Twitter
Visit the News-Times on Facebook
Subscribe to our E-News
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.