Lane County Sheriff″s Office accused of violating Oregon ‘sanctuary’ law

Article subtitle: 
Sheriff Bryon Trapp denies allegations that ICE notifications, jail access violate law Oregon voters affirmed last year.
Article author: 
Christian Hill
Article publisher: 
The Register Guard
Article date: 
Monday, February 11, 2019
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

More than a dozen community organizations have accused the Lane County Sheriff’s Office of violating Oregon’s “sanctuary” law, but Sheriff Byron Trapp has denied the allegations and said his office is in full compliance with all laws.

The law, enacted in 1987 and affirmed by Oregon voters in November, says law enforcement agencies can not use personnel, money or equipment for the purpose of detecting or apprehending individuals who are only violating federal immigration laws.

In a Feb. 1 letter, the organizations outlined two specific examples that they said shows the sheriff’s office is violating the law. One specific concern is the jail notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the pending release of an individual whom the federal agency has signaled an intent to take into custody upon release. The other concern is allowing ICE agents access into the jail.

“I don’t think the motives of the sheriff’s office are suspect. They’re trying to be a good community partner,” said Brook Reinhard, executive director of Public Defender Services of Lane County, which signed the letter. “Using the phone system or using any part of a county building is violating the statute. I don’t think it’s nefarious or anything like that.”

Other organizations that signed the letter include Causa, an immigrant rights organization, the Eugene Human Rights Commission, Centro Latino Americano, and the ACLU of Oregon.

The sheriff said he and his employees “recognize our duty to enforce the law and certainly we can’t put ourselves in the position of violating law and we will not do that.”

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Lane County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, demanding the sheriff address the organizations’ concerns, according to KLCC. County commissioners also are expected to hear the concerns at their meeting Tuesday.

Also on Friday, a Wasco County judge ruled that officials with the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities, or NORCOR, a regional jail in The Dalles, were violating the Oregon sanctuary law by notifying ICE when the jail is scheduled to release a foreign-born individual. The ramifications of the ruling, which is expected to be appealed, on Lane County is unclear.

The organizations sent the letter to Trapp on the same week that the Lane County Circuit Court canceled a trial for an individual who was arrested by ICE in December after his family posted bail, Reinhard said. The client and his family reported that county employees led him into a room in the jail’s sally port to show him how to use an ignition interlock device and two ICE agents were waiting to apprehend him, he said. The jail had notified ICE of the individual’s pending release, the letter said.

Around the same time, ICE agents arrested an individual at a provider’s office to attend court-ordered alcohol treatment, Reinhard said. The lawyer said the sheriff’s office had no involvement in that arrest.

Trapp said the jail will notify ICE they’ve begun the release process for an individual but only after the federal agency has made a specific request for that individual. Usually, the jail staff don’t know the immigration status of the individual being booked, he said.

The sheriff said it’s the same notification process the jail follows if any other local, state or federal law enforcement agency inquires about the release of an individual that they want to interview or otherwise make contact with. And it’s the same process the jail uses when residents call to ask about the release status of a family member or assailant, he said.

“We’re not doing anything unique or different (with ICE) than we do for ... law enforcement or non-law-enforcement citizens of our community,” Trapp said.

In the Wasco County case, NORCOR was notifying ICE when it was scheduled to release a foreign-born individual. Again, Trapp said the jail only notifies ICE of the release of individuals after ICE has made a specific request.

ICE agents use the same front door to enter and exit the jail that every other federal, state and local law enforcement agency uses, Trapp said. He said the organizations falsely accused the sheriff’s office of allowing ICE “special access to the back entrance” of the building.

The organizations demanded in the letter that Trapp cease the disputed practices, confirm he has done so and provide any revised instructions, policies or guidelines.

Trapp, who said he’s had prior conversations with many of the organization about his office’s relationship with ICE, isn’t planning to respond to the letter.