DOJ Threatens To Subpoena Oregon Over Immigration Policies

By Ericka Cruz Guevarra (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Jan. 24, 2018 5:27 p.m.

UPDATE (11:54 a.m. PST) — The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to subpoena the state of Oregon and 22 other jurisdictions, demanding they prove they're complying with federal immigration policy.

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


In a letter sent to the executive director of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission Wednesday, the DOJ requested all documents related to state and local guidance on communication with the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — or face a subpoena.

The letter is part of an ongoing tussle over $3 million in federal grant money that the Department of Justice threatened to withhold if jurisdictions, including Oregon and Multnomah County, cannot justify their sanctuary policies for immigrants at risk of deportation.

In December, Michael Schmidt, the executive director for the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, wrote back to the DOJ to assure the federal government that Oregon was following the law.

“The State of Oregon is in compliance with federal law,” Schmidt wrote. “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 response, the DOJ says it remains concerned Oregon's policies violate federal law, which says officials or government entities can’t create rules that stop the sharing of information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


"After reviewing your response, the Department remains concerned that your jurisdiction’s laws, policies, or practices may violate section 1373, or, at a minimum, that they may be interpreted or applied in a manner inconsistent with section 1373," Jon Adler, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, wrote in the letter sent Wednesday.

"The Department fully anticipates your complete cooperation in this matter. Should you fail to respond in a complete and timely manner, the Department will subpoena these documents in accordance with 34 U.S.C. §§ 10225, 10221, 10230, 10151 – 10158, 10102(a)(6), 10110, and 10110 note."

Oregon's 30-year-old sanctuary state law prohibits the use of state and local resources to enforce federal immigration law in cases in which an immigrant's only crime is entering the country illegally.

In response to the DOJ's letter, Gov. Kate Brown said Oregon "will not be bullied" by the Trump administration.

"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 Wednesday.

"Oregon is a welcoming place for all who call our state home. These values were affirmed some 30 years ago in state statute, which are in full compliance with federal law. As Governor, I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the rights and values of all Oregonians are protected.”

Speaking from the opening press conference of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called the DOJ's move "insulting" and "dangerous."

"It is more than insulting. It is dangerous for a White House – for any White House – to threaten duly elected leaders who are following the law and following the United States constitution with arrest is unconscionable," Wheeler said.

In November, Oregon lawmakers asked the DOJ to not withhold federal grant money that goes to law enforcement agencies in the state.