In the wake of a collective endorsement from several Oregon sheriffs for Measure 105, which proposes to overturn Oregon's sanctuary law, candidates for Columbia County sheriff say they would do the same.
The subject of immigration is often one that divides Oregonians, including law enforcement.
Some police leaders say repealing the state's sanctuary law would discourage residents without citizenship status, especially those who may be victims of crimes, from reporting crimes for fear of deportation or other punishment.
Others, including 16 sheriffs in rural counties who collaboratively opined and lobbied for Measure 105, say the current sanctuary law equates to a "hands-off" statute that keeps police from pursuing immigrants who commit crimes in their jurisdictions.
"The statute undermines respect for law in significant ways," Tom Bergin, Clatsop County sheriff, stated in an endorsement for Measure 105 that was sent out via press release to regional media outlets. "It tells illegal immigrants that Oregon considers immigration-law violations so inconsequential as to be unworthy of police and sheriffs' attention."
Clatskanie resident Jim Gibson, who is running for Columbia County sheriff, says if elected, he'd join the other sheriffs in signing an endorsement of Measure 105.
"The reasons outlined in the letter authored by Sheriff Bergin are supported by facts and well reasoned," Gibson stated. "Not only that, Immigration Laws are passed by Congress as set out for in the Constitution of the United States."
Gibson said law enforcement officers take an oath to abide by all state and federal laws, and uphold the U.S. Constitution, saying it "creates great conflict" when a state orders its law enforcement officers to ignore and not to assist federal agents.
"I am not saying that local police and Sheriffs should enforce and arrest illegal immigrants based solely on their illegal status but when one is arrested for other crimes our officers and deputies should never be restricted from reporting these facts to our Federal Officers," Gibson stated. "If immigrations officers were to request assistance and backup within our jurisdiction and we refused to assist them it would be akin to saying their safety and lives do not matter."
Brian Pixley, who currently serves as a lieutenant in the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, says he too would have backed the endorsement of Measure 105.
"Having served 21 years in public safety with 15 years in law enforcement, I have experience in patrol and corrections and am a firm believer in the rule of law. Within the rule of law, all individuals are held accountable to the law as established by the legislature and the people," Pixley stated via email when asked about his position.
"I support the repeal of Oregon's sanctuary state status and, if elected sheriff, I would sign a statement in support of the repeal. I also fully support the voice of the people who will be voting on this issue in November."
Dave Brown, who is also running for sheriff, says he supports "giving law enforcement the authority to share information to assist in locating these criminals, same as we would do for the FBI to locate a bank robber or a child pornographer."
"While immigration issues are not a specific focus of my campaign, I support the [ballot measure] because it gives the Sheriff the ability to share information to allow the federal government to detect, apprehend, and prosecute Aggravated Illegal re-entry candidates: criminals who have been convicted locally, deported, then come back and typically been found in a jail yet again. Typically these are drug and human traffickers."
Brown touches on the Columbia County Jail, which houses federal prisoners and relies on revenue paid for keeping them in custody to sustain jail operations.
"The hypocrisy of this is that the Columbia County Jail, along with a few others in Oregon, house U.S. Marshal prisoners, a large number of which are under federal indictment by ICE for Aggravated Illegal re-entry," Brown states. "We can house federal prisoners charged with Aggravated Illegal re-entry, which helps keep our jail open, but we cannot answer a phone call, or email to share information to locate criminals such as this, and remove them from our community? Oregon's sanctuary law already allows cooperation in criminal matters, it's find-
ing the criminals that's the issue."
Columbia County residents will vote for sheriff, and on Measure 105, on Nov. 6.
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