Oregon Strengthens Its Immigrant Sanctuary Status
By Anna Marum
Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday issued an executive order that forbids all state agencies and employees from helping federal immigration officials locate or apprehend undocumented immigrants.
"We will not retreat," she said.
The move comes nearly a week after President Donald Trump issued his own executive order banning most travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Though Oregon law already forbids state and local law enforcement agencies from using public resources to find or arrest those whose only crime is being in the country without proper documentation, Brown's order goes a step further in solidifying the state's sanctuary status by expanding the law to all agencies.
The governor's order also makes it illegal for state agencies to discriminate based on immigration status, and forbids state agencies from using public resources to help create a religious registry.
"We have heard threats of a Muslim registry at the federal level," Brown said. "I don't know how sincere these threats are, but I want to be absolutely clear: We will not participate."
But each provision of Brown's order included a caveat: No state employee should break state or federal law to comply with her order.
"This Executive Order is intended to be consistent with the state's obligations under federal and state law," it says. It also says the order "shall be interpreted as to not violate any requirement of federal or state law."
Senate Republican leader Ted Ferrioli said the executive order is an attempt by Brown to distract from the problems facing the state; namely the $1.8 billion budget gap.
"It's a sad but typical sign of failure," he said. "That's what's wrong with Oregon. We're not willing to solve our own problems."
Brown also asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to "explore legal remedies" available to "resist" Trump's travel ban in court.
If Oregon heads to court, it could become the sixth state to file a lawsuit against the White House, joining Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington. Washington, which filed its suit on Monday, was the first to seek a stay on the ban.
Oregon Deputy Attorney General Fred Boss said Trump's travel ban is illegal, and the state would announce its legal plan next week.
States suing the White House is nothing new. Starting in 2010, dozens of states sued the Obama administration over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in a 2012 decision, and again in a 2015 decision on the legality of subsidies.
While the nod to obeying federal law might seem to undermine Brown's executive order, Pacific University politics professor Jim Moore said it still prevents state employees from taking it upon themselves to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement with information about a person living in the U.S. illegally.
Employees such as those who administer welfare benefits to low-income families or issue drivers licenses track the citizenship status of Oregon residents because only citizens and permanent legal residents can receive welfare or drivers licenses.
An executive order signed by Trump last week set new priorities for deportation. Under Obama, these priorities included undocumented immigrants convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or multiple misdemeanors.
Trump's priorities for deportation also include undocumented immigrants who abuse public benefits or are considered "a risk to public safety or national security" by an immigration officer.
Brown's announcement she doesn't want the state to help with those deportations in any way follows an email from her campaign that called on supporters to join her "social action team" and resist Trump.
Last month, Oregon was left off an early list of priority infrastructure projects to receive federal funding.
Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities and states. When asked multiple times if she was willing to give up that funding, Brown said the state's funding isn't currently at risk.
"I am willing to do what's right to make sure we protect Oregonians, we protect our culture and we protect our economy," she said.
Moore says Brown likely feels politically safer signing the order in light of the aggressive stances against Trump taken by neighbors Washington and California.
"This fits into the West Coast ethos," he said. "It's not like Oregon is the 'weird state out' in any of this."
(c)2017 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)