With one major spectacle after another dominating the national news, it can be easy to forget that the new administration’s policies still reach us on a personal level. Possibly the most troubling example of federal policy impacting Oregonians’ daily lives comes in the form of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants who make up an important and valued part of the fabric of our state. More troubling still is that some of our own state politicians are working to bring the predatory policy to Oregon.
Time magazine reported in May that detentions of those in the country illegally are up nearly 40% this year compared to the same time in 2016. Under the Obama administration, immigration authorities were encouraged to focus deportation efforts on immigrants who had committed violent crimes. Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order which expands the groups of people vulnerable to deportation; agencies like I.C.E. may detain criminals, but it doesn’t end there. Those accused of crimes that have not been adjudicated yet, those suspected of abusing public welfare, and anyone “considered a threat to public safety…in the judgment of an immigration officer” can be detained.
These broad parameters have opened the door to immigration raids on communities throughout Oregon, and the result is a culture of fear in a state historically noted for its efforts to protect vulnerable immigrant populations. And in April, Oregon House Republicans launched Initiative 22 to obliterate Oregon’s unique protection of its immigrant population.
Initiative 22 seeks to abolish a state law that was enacted in 1987. Oregon set a national example when it passed Oregon Revised Statute 181A.850, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using local resources to enforce federal immigration law. Since its passage, the law has worked to protect all Oregonians from the whims of changing federal immigration policy. Those whose only crime is being in the United States without proper documentation have received protection under the law, and Oregonians’ tax dollars have been protected from use for federal purposes. The law’s passage was an acknowledgment of the desire to ensure privacy for all Oregonians.
Governor Kate Brown strengthened Oregon’s protection of immigrants in January with an executive order banning all public agencies (not just law enforcement) from using state or local resources to enforce federal immigration law. The order has been further bolstered by an innovative bill sponsored by Representatives Teresa Alonso Leon of Woodburn and Diego Hernandez of Portland. House Bill 3464 will further protect the privacy of Oregonians by clarifying Gov. Brown’s executive order regarding what information public workers must hand over to the federal government per federal law, versus what information must be kept private per Oregon state law and Brown’s executive order. The bill passed in both houses of the Legislature and currently awaits the Governor’s signatures that will make it law.
At its heart, the bill seeks to protect public workers who are unsure what information they must or are able to divulge, and to protect immigrants living in Oregon from predatory immigration policy seeking to remove otherwise law-abiding people from their businesses, communities, and families.
Rep. Alonso Leon stresses that the bill’s intention is to preserve Oregon’s, traditionally conservative belief in limiting the government’s ability to collect information on its populace or give orders to state and local law enforcement.
It is therefore curious that conservative politicians like Representatives Nearman, Esquivel, and Barreto have filed Initiative 22 to scale back protections of Oregon’s privacy and resources. The initiative would repeal ORS 181A.850, and would also directly counteract HB 3464 by dismantling the underlying legal premise for the bill.
The initiative is an affront to Oregonian values on many levels. We have an obligation to protect the vulnerable in our state, a principle the initiative contravenes.
The money raised by Oregonian taxpayers ought to go to Oregonian projects and values. It is not acceptable for the federal government to hijack local funds and personnel, and it is unconscionable that the federal government would do so in order to violate the privacy, safety, and liberty of Oregonians. Still more disturbing is that some Oregon politicians want to assist the federal government in this intrusion into their residents’ lives.
All Oregonians have a right to privacy. Salem Weekly lauds the state house and senate for protecting this right by passing HB 3464, and thanks, Reps Alonso Leon and Hernandez for their courage and ingenuity. We urge Oregon voters to consider the importance of privacy in all of our lives. If Initiative 22 makes it to the ballot in November 2018 we hope a large majority of Oregon will soundly reject its underlying premise that some Oregonians do not share the right to privacy.