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US Justice Department Threatens Oregon Over Sanctuary Policy


The U.S. Department of Justice has put Multnomah County, the state of Oregon and 27 other jurisdictions on notice that their sanctuary policies may cost them federal money.

DOJ officials issued the warning in a letter Wednesday. It said local and state governments are violating the federal law known as 8 USC 1373, which promotes information-sharing for immigration enforcement and bars local and state governments from passing laws that limit communication with the federal government about immigration status.

President Trump issued an executive order soon after taking office in January declaring that cities, counties and states that don’t comply with 8 USC 1373 should stop receiving federal grant money. That order and the federal government’s power to stop funding communities with sanctuary laws is being debated in court. Portland and Seattle are among a number of cities that have sued the federal government over its attempt to crack down on sanctuary communities. 

Multnomah County recently changed its policy to bar deputies from giving immigration agents any more information about jail inmates than the general public can receive.

Oregon law restricts local and state police from working with federal immigration agents to pursue people whose only crime is entering the country illegally.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shot back at the letter Wednesday.

“Oregon’s laws are in place to uphold the civil rights of all Oregonians, and the federal government cannot, under the U.S. Constitution, force state law enforcement officers to implement the policies of this administration,” Brown said in a statement.

The Oregon Legislature expanded its sanctuary protections this summer with a bill that gave public bodies the right to withhold information about a person’s citizenship status unless required by state or federal law, such as when determining whether someone is eligible for certain government benefits.  

In letters to Multnomah County and the state, acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson asked for an explanation of the county and state policies and assurances that they do not violate 8 USC 1373. He gave the county and the state until early December to respond.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly accused so-called sanctuary cities and states of harboring criminals. He came to Portland this summer to urge city and state leaders to cooperate more with federal immigration enforcement efforts. 

“These policies hinder the work of federal law enforcement, they’re contrary to the rule of law and they have serious consequences for the law-abiding residents of Oregon,” Sessions said. “I urge the city of Portland, the state of Oregon and every sanctuary jurisdiction to reconsider.”

Other communities put on notice by the Justice Department include Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Illinois and Vermont. 

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