Oregon's top federal prosecutor wants sheriffs to cooperate more regularly with federal immigration officials.
U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams wrote an opinion column in The Oregonian this weekend declaring the state’s so-called sanctuary policy a public safety threat.
In an interview today on OPB’s "All Things Considered," he suggested that local leaders have misconstrued state law.
“In the current state of affairs, sheriffs are in a position where they’re afraid to share information about known criminals who are back in the system and unfortunately are being released, and some of them are committing additional criminal offenses,” he said. “ … State law allows for sharing of information. That fact has been lost upon some members of law enforcement and the state because of the concerns over violating state law, violating federal law.”
He used the example of Sergio Jose Martinez, who has been arrested in Multnomah County and released at least twice in the past year despite having been deported 20 times.
Police arrested Martinez, 31, on July 25 after receiving reports he was carrying a knife and had assaulted two women. One of those women was a 65-year-old Northeast Portland woman who police say Martinez physically and sexually assaulted in her home before stealing her car.
Sheriff Mike Reese and federal officials have disagreed about who is responsible. Reese has defended how his office handled the case, saying federal officials failed to file the proper paperwork to allow them to keep Martinez in jail.
A 30-year-old Oregon law says local law enforcement officials cannot use government resources to aid federal immigration agents in cases in which the only crime committed by the person they’re arresting or holding is being in the country illegally.
In 2014, a federal magistrate judge ruled that a Clackamas County woman had been held illegally after the county jail detained her on a request from U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement.
Many sheriffs and police chiefs across Oregon have interpreted the state law and that legal decision to mean they cannot, for example, notify ICE agents when they’ve arrested someone they believe is in the country without the proper documentation.
Williams wants sheriffs to be more proactive in working with federal officials.
“The state law as originally enacted … had to do with concerns over local law enforcement targeting minority populations who may not be in the country lawfully,” he said. “But it never said you couldn’t share information … Sharing information is critical to law enforcement and public safety, and it’s not happening right now. That’s the problem.”
To hear the entire conversation between "All Things Considered" host Kate Davidson and U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, use the audio player at the top of this story.