Wheeler criticizes sanctuary city crackdown, immigration arrest
Five days after the City Council officially declared Portland a so-called sanctuary city, Mayor Ted Wheeler pushed back against a threat by U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on them. That means it will not help enforce federal immigration laws.
The council passed its declaration last Wednesday. On Monday morning, Sessions said the U.S. Department of Justice would require cities seeking some of $4.1 billion available in grant money to verify that they are in compliance with a section of federal law that allows information sharing with immigration officials.
"I urge the nation's states and cities to carefully consider the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws," Sessions said, explaining the justice department was carrying out an executive order issued by President Donald Trump
In response, Wheeler issued the following statement Monday afternoon criticizing Sessions' statement and the reported Sunday arrest by federal immigration enforcement officers of a young Portland who was brought into this country when he was a child:
Mayor Ted Wheeler released the following statement on Attorney General Jeff Session's comments on sanctuary city's and recent ICE actions in Portland.
"Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions again reiterated the Trump administration's threat to withhold funding from sanctuary cities. His comments provide barely more information than the already broad statements provided by the president himself. It is unclear whether the AG is referring to future grants, or to funds already provided. Also unclear is his legal ability to withhold funds DOJ funds from states under these conditions. It should be noted that DOJ grants to the City of Portland in our 2015-16 budget totaled just more than $3 million.
"All of this is happening in an environment that contains a lot of heated rhetoric but not a lot of facts. For example, just last week an Oregon Republican Party spokesman said that Portland's status as a sanctuary city means we are harboring, "criminal illegal aliens who are murdering and raping." This statement is inaccurate and harmful.
"An ICE arrest in Portland over the weekend demonstrates how wrongheaded this statement truly is. This weekend, ICE arrested Francisco J. Rodriguez Dominguez, a 25-year-old who has lived in the United States since he was five. Far from being a violent criminal, Francisco is a respected member of the community, a student and a volunteer. This arrest does nothing to promote public safety. Instead, actions like this only serve to tear apart our community and needlessly alter the lives of our residents. The city had no role in this arrest and I am against it.
"Today my administration spoke with both ICE and DOJ about our concern that their actions tremendous damage they are doing to the social, civic, and economic life of our city. The City of Portland, our police bureau, and our employees do not cooperate with ICE. However, ICE has the power to operate within our city, and does not have to inform us of their activities. To learn more about your rights regarding ICE and immigration enforcement, please visit Oregon Immigration Resource here: oregonimmigrationresource.org/resources/?tab=deportations-and-ice-activity."
Multnomah County Commission Deborah Kafoury also issued the following statement criticizing Rodriguez's arrest:
"The arrest of Dreamer Francisco Rodriguez Dominguez in East County over the weekend will not make our community safer. This is what it looks like when politics gets in the way of common sense.
"It is inconceivable to me that the Trump administration is using our government's precious resources to arrest a community leader, a taxpayer, for something his parents did when he was 5 years old. Francisco Rodriguez Dominguez is a valued member of the Reynolds school community, his Episcopal church and a beloved soccer coach. He was taking the steps required to become a citizen.
"He is not a threat. He is not dangerous. He is a coach, a mentor and an inspiration to children. Politics should not deny him his day in court.
"Immigration and Customs Enforcement managers in the Portland district have discretion and I am asking them to use it. Release him from Tacoma so that he can he resume his legal path to citizenship."
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune and contributed to this story.