The last remaining jail in Oregon that held federal immigration detainees, the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR) in The Dalles, ended its contract with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). NORCOR’s contract with ICE previously brought the regional jail upwards of $800,000 annually.
Oregon was already a “sanctuary state.” In 1987, a law prohibiting local police and law enforcement from using local resources to detect or apprehend aliens when their only crime was entering the country illegally. The state expanded its sanctuary policies in 2017. This decision by NORCOR goes beyond what Oregon’s sanctuary laws require. Open-borders advocates have argued in the past that NORCOR was in violation of this law; however, a Wasco County judge ruled that the jail was not in violation because detainees were arrested or apprehended by ICE and merely detained at NORCOR for a fee.
Sanctuary laws are almost certainly unconstitutional as they violate federal law, 8 U.S.C. s. 1373, which provides that states “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service [now ICE]information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” Yet, states continue to enact such legislation that prohibits local officials from inquiring, acting on or reporting an individual’s immigration status.
States argue that sanctuary jurisdictions encourage immigrants to come forward and report crimes, but there is no evidence to support such claims. Rather, the policies release criminals into immigrant communities by preventing ICE from initiating the removal proceedings of an arrested alien.
Additionally, when state and local law enforcement refuse to cooperate with ICE, specifically in the confines of a secure jail, agents are forced to perform apprehensions on the streets and communities, not only diminishing public safety in those instances, but also the safety of the officers involved.
The federal government must enforce and strengthen anti-sanctuary laws which prohibit and nullify state and local sanctuary policies. In addition, Congress needs to enact specific penalties against jurisdictions that violate federal law by instituting sanctuary policies. In the meantime, a U.S. appeals court ruled in February that President Trump can withhold certain areas of funding to cities and states that adopt sanctuary policies. This is a good start, but this is merely a threat and no action has been taken to move forward. It’s clearly not enough to ensure that states respect federal law.