Guest column: Voters should repeal Oregon sanctuary law

Article author: 
Richard F. LaMountain
Article publisher: 
Bend Bulletin
Article date: 
Friday, June 8, 2018
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 
Should Oregon law provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants? This year, voters may get the chance to decide.
Activists affiliated with Oregonians for Immigration Reform are collecting signatures to seek to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would enable voters to repeal Oregon Revised Statute 181A.820. That law prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from working to detect and apprehend “persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”
To begin, let’s clarify: If voters were to repeal ORS 181A.820, Oregon’s police departments and sheriff’s offices would not be required to help U.S. authorities enforce immigration law. Repeal would enable them, instead, to choose to detect and detain illegal immigrants on the basis of their illegal entry or visa overstay and to relinquish them to federal agents for removal from the country.
Is this a legitimate role for local law enforcement? In United States v. Vasquez-Alvarez (1999), the 10th Circuit Court recognized a “pre-existing general authority of state or local police officers to investigate and make arrests for violations of federal law, including immigration laws.” And in Arizona v. United States (2012), the U.S. Supreme Court held that local law enforcement officers may seek to determine the immigration status of someone they stop, detain or arrest if they have a clearly defined “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an illegal immigrant.
Suppose, after a repeal of ORS 181A.820, that many police and sheriffs chose to exercise their new power and that, as a result, the number of illegal immigrants in Oregon fell. What would be the practical effect of this on rank-and-file Oregonians?
On a routine basis, illegal immigration is precursory to other crimes — crimes that can impact Oregonians profoundly. “Virtually all adult illegal aliens commit felonies in order to procure the documents they need to get jobs, to drive and to obtain other benefits,” writes Ronald Mortensen, a fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies. Indeed, notes Mortensen, “the Social Security Administration and New York Times report that approximately 75 percent of illegal aliens have fraudulently obtained Social Security numbers.”
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration, CNS News’ Terence Jeffrey reports, that between 2011 and 2016 there were “more than 1.3 million cases of identity theft perpetrated by illegal aliens … ineligible to work in the United States.”
A recent study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform found that the percentage of illegal immigrants incarcerated by states and localities is some 50 percent higher than the percentage of native-born Americans incarcerated. That’s borne out in Oregon, where illegal immigrants are estimated to comprise some 4 percent of the state’s population but, last month, accounted for 6.5 percent of the state prison population. Of those illegal-immigrant inmates, more than three-quarters were serving time for homicide, assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, sodomy and sex abuse.
Illegal-immigrant crime wreaks havoc on too many law-abiding Oregonians. For voters to repeal the state’s sanctuary law — and give our law enforcement agencies the freedom to detect, apprehend and help remove illegal immigrants on the basis of immigration law violations alone — would be a major step toward a safer Oregon.
For information about the petition campaign to repeal ORS 181A.820, go to
— Richard F. LaMountain is a former vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform