Crime by Foreigners Fuels Sanctuary State Debate in Oregon

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Authorities say a man suspected of being in the United States illegally ran a red light while drunk on a street in Oregon's state capital and crashed into a mot
Article author: 
Andrew Selsky
Article publisher: 
U.S. News
Article date: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018
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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A man suspected of being in the United States illegally ran a red light while drunk on a street in Oregon's state capital and crashed into a motorcycle carrying a man and woman, killing them both, authorities said.

A judge set bail for Eduardo de la Lima Vargas at $500,000 on Wednesday, saying he's a threat to society and a flight risk. The Mexican man was sent back to the Marion County jail, joining the hundreds behind bars in Oregon who federal immigration authorities believe are deportable.

Of the 14,916 inmates in Oregon Department of Corrections prisons, 943 were foreign nationals as of July 1, according to David Olen Cross, who voluntarily compiles data and shares his information with lawmakers, law enforcement, media and others.

All had Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers on them, said Cross, who compiles data from ICE and the state corrections department for his reports.

ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell said her agency "only lodges detainers on individuals who are subject to removal, meaning these individuals violated the terms of their lawful status or are in the country illegally."

The biggest share of foreign national prisoners — 229 — resided in Marion County, Cross said.

Cases such as the one involving de la Lima Vargas are fueling a debate ahead of the November election, when voters will decide whether Oregon should repeal its sanctuary state law, the nation's oldest. It prevents law enforcement from detaining people who are in the United States illegally but have not broken other laws.

De la Lima Vargas was intoxicated on Aug. 19 when he drove a pickup truck pulling a loaded horse trailer through a red light in Salem and struck a motorcycle that Logan and Jessica Wilson were riding on, killing the Salem couple, prosecutors said.

De la Lima Vargas is charged with two counts of manslaughter, driving under the influence, reckless driving and recklessly endangering another person.

"There is no question in my mind that there is a danger to the public if Mr. Vargas is released," Judge David Leith said at Wednesday's bail hearing. "Circumstances also suggest some real risk of flight."...

On Aug. 23, ICE lodged an immigration detainer on de la Lima Vargas, saying he is illegally residing in the United States. But the jail won't accept ICE detainers without a criminal warrant issued by a magistrate judge, ICE officials say.

"Sanctuary policies not only provide a refuge for illegal aliens, but they also shield criminal aliens who prey on people in their own and other communities," ICE said in a statement.

Advocates of Oregon's 1987 sanctuary law accuse its detractors of seizing upon criminals in the country illegally to push their case for supporting a repeal of the sanctuary state law. Most immigrants are law-abiding, fill jobs that U.S. citizens often don't want, and contribute to society, they say....

Those who support repeal, including 16 (now 18) of Oregon's 36 sheriffs, say respect for the law is paramount.

Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers was among the majority of sheriffs who did not sign an open letter supporting repeal.