The city of Cottage Grove and its police department have used public resources to help with federal immigration enforcement, in violation of Oregon law, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit, filed by the Rural Organizing Project, states the city and police have “adopted policies” that “instruct officers to engage in activities that constitute immigration enforcement and to use public resources to support and assist federal agencies in their immigration enforcement activities.”
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to stop the city and its police from “unlawfully using public resources to engage or assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
Oregon has long drawn a line between public resources used to enforce the state’s criminal laws and federal immigration enforcement, which is a civil violation. Across the country they’re known as sanctuary laws, or disentanglement statues.
Oregon has one of the oldest sanctuary laws in the country, which lawmakers first passed in 1987 and which has served as a model for others.
Since then, voters rejected a ballot measure to repeal the law and the Legislature has passed measures that strengthen and clarify it, most recently in 2021 with House Bill 3265, known as the Sanctuary Promise Act. The law outlines a number of provisions that block the information public entities can share with federal immigration officials, prohibit collecting information about citizenship status and prevent state law enforcement from jailing people for immigration agencies.
The lawsuit filed against Cottage Grove, a city of 10,000 residents 20 miles south of Eugene, alleges that public resources — including the city’s jail — have been used to support federal immigration enforcement.
The complaint states the city and its police force have provided the identity and contact information of people it has detained to federal immigration officers. It also states that the city and police have notified immigration authorities when someone is being released from its jail, given “federal immigration authorities non-public access to persons incarcerated at the jail,” and held people beyond their release so immigration officers would have time to arrive at the jail and, presumably, apprehend them.
The city of Cottage Grove and the Cottage Grove Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
“We don’t know how widespread this is, to be honest,” Jess Campbell, the executive director of the Rural Organizing Project told OPB.
She said when local law enforcement collaborate with federal immigration agencies it harms trust and makes it less likely people will call the police if they need help.
“Oregonians have affirmed over and over and over again that we want our sanctuary law upheld and we want local law enforcement to be focusing their resources on local priorities, not supporting federal immigration enforcement,” Campbell said.