Lane County commissioners vote to ban use of public funds for federal immigration enforcement

Article author: 
Elon Glucklich
Article publisher: 
The Register Guard
Article date: 
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

Lane County commissioners voted Tuesday to bar county employees from using public funds to enforce federal immigration laws in most cases.

The five-member board unanimously approved adding new language to the county’s policy manual banning the use of money, equipment or personnel for “detecting or apprehending 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.”

The move is designed to encourage local undocumented immigrants to work with Lane County sheriff’s deputies without fear of deportation.

The commissioners’ vote followed months of lobbying by Lane County residents worried about the effects of President Trump’s stricter enforcement of federal immigration laws. It also comes amid a national debate over so-called “sanctuary city” policies and efforts by liberal-leaning states that don’t want to use locally funded staff to enforce stricter federal immigration policies.

“We are a local government providing local services. If a citizen is afraid to come to us, that really affects our ability to protect people,” Commissioner Jay Bozievich said shortly before the board voted to add the language covering “foreign citizenship” in the Lane Manual.

County officials say the Lane Manual change reflects policies already practiced by agencies such as the Lane County Sheriff’s Office and Lane County Health and Human Services.

The language would allow county personnel to help federal immigration officials if a federal judge had ordered a person to be arrested for violating federal immigration law. However, such situations appear to be rare.

In November, shortly after Trump’s victory, Lane County, mayors of nine cities and other organizations co-signed a statement of unity vowing to protect marginalized residents such as immigrants.

But local speakers and numerous letter writers have urged local governments such as the city of Eugene and Lane County to go further and commit to refraining from helping in federal deportation arrests — even though such assistance by state or local government is already prohibited by Oregon law.

More than a dozen people spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting, each urging the commissioners to approve the language barring county resources from being used for federal deportation efforts.

No one spoke against the Lane Manual change.

“I have no problem with people who come from unimaginable situations who come to this country to make a better life for themselves and their children, whether through legal or illegal means,” said Ellen Furstner, a Marcola resident who described herself as a second-generation refugee.

Lane County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky said staff worked to ensure the policy was within state and federal law.

Oregon Revised Statutes contains identical language to the Lane Manual addition, barring law enforcement from using agency resources for deportation actions against someone wanted solely for violating federal immigration law.

“As of today, we believe this language does not put at risk our ability to access state and federal funds,” Mokrohisky said.

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