Beaverton's 'sanctuary' status will threaten U.S. citizens

Letter date: 
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Letter publisher: 
Letter author: 
Richard F. LaMountain
Letter body: 

Sanctuary jurisdictions undermine federal immigration law, shield criminals from justice, and threaten the U.S. citizens they are sworn to serve.

Last week, pursuant to advice offered by a recent Times editorial ("Beaverton may seek designation as Sanctuary City," Dec. 15), Beaverton's elected council declared the city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

This was a mistake. Sanctuary jurisdictions undermine federal immigration law, shield criminals from justice, and threaten the U.S. citizens they are sworn to serve. Beaverton's more responsible action would have been to lobby state legislators to repeal Oregon's statewide sanctuary law, Oregon Revised Statute 181A.820.

The central passage of the law, approved by Oregon lawmakers in 1987, is this: "No law enforcement agency of the State of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state shall use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of 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." (Emphasis added.) For Beaverton to declare itself an illegal-immigrant sanctuary, then, is at best symbolic — Oregon already has made sanctuaries of all its cities. Still, Beaverton should have rejected that symbolism and asserted the opposite: that enforcement of U.S. immigration law is not extrinsic, but central, to the duties of state and local law enforcement.

The reason: Illegal immigrants can and do harm the people to whom states and municipalities owe their foremost responsibility: American citizens. Here's, let's consider how sanctuary policies increase the risk of that harm.

The Times' editorial cited a California study purporting to prove that foreign-born residents, and by extension illegal immigrants, are less prone to crime than are Americans. But broader national analyses show otherwise. A recent Federation for American Immigration Reform study of foreign nationals incarcerated by states and localities "found that their share of the prison population was 50 percent higher than the prison share of natives." In 2015, Fox News investigators surveyed statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Sentencing Commission, federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and other sources and discovered that illegal immigrants — whom they estimated at 3.5 percent of the population — accounted for "13.6 percent of all offenders sentenced for crimes committed in the U.S." including "20 percent of kidnapping sentences and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences." Worst of all: "Illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population."

David Olen Cross, a Salem-based expert on illegal-immigrant crime in Oregon, reported that late last year, "there were 964 foreign nationals... incarcerated in the state's prison system (who comprised) 6.54 percent of the total prison population." Of those, 748 — more than three-quarters — were in for homicide, assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, sodomy and sex abuse.

More, illegal immigrants "routinely commit crimes related to their illegal status," public-policy analyst Marti Dinerstein has written, including "fraudulently obtaining U.S. birth certificates, Social Security numbers and driver's licenses." Though non-violent, crimes like these — as anyone who has suffered identity theft can attest — wreak havoc on innocent Americans.

Despite all this, reporter Stephen Dinan wrote early this month in The Washington Times, in fiscal year 2016 almost 300 sanctuary municipalities across America "released more than 2,000 illegal immigrants back onto the streets rather than turn them over to federal authorities" — illegal immigrants, indeed, who were "convicted criminals, national-security risks or people who are ignoring recent orders of deportation." These illegal immigrants returned to American neighborhoods full of working-class families.

In Woodburn last summer, Bonifacio Oseguera-Gonzalez, an illegal immigrant who had been deported six times, murdered three people. If not for Oregon's sanctuary law, before those murders Oseguera-Gonzalez, perhaps during an encounter with police, might have been identified as an illegal immigrant, detained and removed from the country. Does Beaverton really want to endorse a policy that protects such people — indeed, welcomes them into its midst?

Sanctuary policies enable illegal-immigrant criminals not only to evade capture and deportation, but to continue preying on the American citizens to whom Beaverton and all U.S. municipalities owe their primary allegiance. Let's hope a future Beaverton council rejects the sanctuary mentality, lobbies to repeal ORS 181A.820, and commits to resuming one of its most fundamental duties: helping the U.S. government enforce immigration law.

Richard F. LaMountain, a Cedar Mill resident, is vice president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform (

Learn more about sanctuary policies.