In Tussle Over Federal Dollars, Oregon Says It's Following Immigration Law

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
Portland, Oregon Dec. 6, 2017 1:06 a.m.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Oregon sought to assure the federal government that the state is in compliance with federal immigration laws.

The letter was in response to concerns raised last month by the U.S. Department of Justice that argued the state was risking roughly $3 million in federal grant dollars.


"The State of Oregon is in compliance with federal law," wrote Michael Schmidt, the executive director for the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, in Tuesday's letter.

"The State of Oregon does not restrict state entities or officials from providing information regarding citizenship or immigration status to the Department of Homeland Security."

In mid-November, Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson wrote letters to the state, Multnomah County and 27 other jurisdiction across the country.


Hanson said the DOJ was concerned the jurisdictions may not be in compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373, which states officials or government entities can’t create rules that stop the sharing of information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hason's letter to Multnomah County raised concerns about a new sheriff's department policy that limits information sharing with ICE to whatever is publicly available.

His letter to the state's Criminal Justice Commission referenced Oregon's 30-year-old sanctuary law and House Bill 3464, which went into effect in August.

"The statute, enacted this year, does not restrict state entities or officials from providing 'information regarding ... citizenship or immigration status' to the Department of Homeland Security," Schmidt wrote.

Rather, he said, the new statue was drafted to comply with federal immigration laws.

"It does not restrict anyone from sharing that information if they wish," Schmidt wrote. "Because 1373 does not affirmatively require information sharing, this provision is consistent with the federal statue."

Under Oregon's sanctuary law, local law enforcement agencies are prohibited from using their resources to enforce federal immigration policy if a person’s only crime is that they entered the country illegally.

The federal Justice Department has not indicated when it will make a final decision on grant dollars it sends to Oregon.