From agriculture to medicine to technology, Oregon thrives on the work of immigrants.
Caught between state law and Trump administration policy, Gov. Kate Brown has acted responsibly by upholding Oregon as a place that “embraces, celebrates and welcomes its immigrant and refugee residents.”
On Thursday, Brown signed an executive order expanding a 1987 state law that prohibits law enforcement agencies from using taxpayer money to investigate or arrest Oregonians due only to their immigration status.
That prohibition will now apply to all state agencies. They still must follow state and federal laws; for example, only citizens can become voters or obtain certain welfare benefits. But state employees must not discriminate based on immigration status or — because Brown worries about a potential “Muslim ban” — on religion.
Her point: Oregon agencies and Oregon law enforcement should focus on Oregon, and leave federal immigration enforcement to the feds.
“I want to make it very clear that here in Oregon, where thousands have fought for and demanded equality, where millions have put down roots and become integral to our economy, to our culture, and to our way of life, we cannot retreat,” Brown said. “As governor, it is my duty to uphold the civil and human rights of all who call Oregon home.”
President Donald Trump issued executive orders that halted resettlement of refugees from Syria and temporarily blocked citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
That is his political prerogative, although subsequent lawsuits are challenging the constitutionality of his orders. Brown wants Oregon to join the litigation.
The Trump orders, which canceled tens of thousands of visas until a federal judge intervened, directly affect Oregon. In one high-profile case that incensed politicians nationwide, an Iranian infant was blocked from traveling to Oregon Health & Science University for life-saving heart surgery. The federal government has now granted a waiver allowing Fatemah Reshad and her family to enter the U.S.
Oregon’s largest private employer, Intel, has thousands of foreign-born employees who are here on work visas. So do many other employers, from doctors who practice at clinics and hospitals to IT contractors who serve state government. Oregon universities constantly have scholars and students traveling from abroad to collaborate on study and research. And certainly, Oregon’s farm sector is dependent on the agricultural skills of thousands of immigrants.
Oregon’s 1987 law had national influence but has not always been followed locally. Clackamas County ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution for holding a woman on a federal immigration detainer after her arrest for allegedly violating a restraining order. That 2014 federal court ruling led many sheriff departments to require that the feds have a warrant or court order when they want a foreign-born individual held for immigration purposes.
That is reasonable, despite the inflammatory rhetoric about Oregon and other places being “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.
Oregon pursues, prosecutes and punishes criminals regardless of their immigration status. Oregon law enforcement also honors federal warrants.
Public safety is enhanced by the legitimate separation between state law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement. Oregon’s law encourages undocumented immigrants to trust police instead of fearing deportation for being a victim or witness to a crime. The law encourages immigrants to use the court system to resolve child custody and other issues. However, Oregon judges say Trump’s orders already have had a chilling effect in that regard.
Oregon’s position carries risks. One of Trump’s orders would withdraw federal money from “sanctuary” states and cities. A greater risk, noted Republican state Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, is that Oregon will simply be left off the future recipient list when federal money is doled out for road construction and other projects.
It is a risky stance.
It is the right stance.