Sheriff says sanctuary law ‘hamstrings’ officers of law

Argus Observer
News article

As the law currently stands when an illegal immigrant is arrested in Oregon, they can still be prosecuted for a crime on a state or local level. However, if the person has to spend time in jail for the crime, Oregon law enforcement agencies are precluded from alerting federal immigration officials, and half of the sheriffs in Oregon support a voter-based initiative to change that policy.

Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe is among sheriffs who support Measure 105, which will appear on the statewide General Election ballot. Passage of the measure would upend a three-decade old law that was created to make Oregon a Sanctuary State.

Wolfe iterated, however, supporting the measure is not tied to immigration stings.

“We have no interest in going out and doing roundups or anything like that,” he said. “But there are times when immigration needs to deport people.”

However, the current law “makes it really tough to work with them,” Wolfe said.

One example Wolfe gave of a time it would make things easier for law enforcement officials is when someone without U.S. citizenship status is put in jail.

“We need to have the ability to contact immigration and say, ‘Hey, we have this bad guy or gal in our jail and you need to come down and get them,’” he said.

As the law currently stands, federal immigration agencies would have to be the ones making the call to find out whether a certain person was in custody.

“It then becomes a matter of public record,” Wolfe said, adding that at that point, anyone could call to verify if someone was an inmate and sheriff’s deputies could then answer the question.

According to a news release, Wolfe is among 18 county sheriffs in support of repealing Oregon’s sanctuary status; those sheriffs represent half of Oregon’s 36 counties. Those counties are throughout the state, and two of them — Grant and Harney — border a portion of Malheur County.

Oregon’s sanctuary law was passed in July of 1987.


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