From Michael’s Desk

As you probably know, Measure 105 to repeal Oregon’s “sanctuary” law has qualified to appear on the ballot this fall.

I put “sanctuary” in quotes because the long-standing Oregon statute that is being challenged by the ballot measure does not establish Oregon as a sanctuary at all.  It just directs that state and local law enforcement resources be dedicated to enforcing our criminal laws, and not squandered on chasing farm workers, landscapers and care givers whose sole offense is that they entered the country without documents or overstayed a visa.

I was a practicing attorney in Oregon before ORS 181A.820 was adopted, and I remember local police jurisdictions tying up multiple officers for many hours at a time in order to set up road blocks on busy roads to stop every motorist so that INS (ICE’s predecessor agency) could check the documents of everyone passing.  Those roadblocks were not only the source of annoying traffic jams, they were very reminiscent of old movies of Nazi Germany:  “Show me your papers.” This indignity is not the hallmark of a free and open society.

I particularly recall a young migrant worker who came to me for help during those times. He’d scraped together enough money to buy a car, and he’d picked up a hitch-hiker for whom he felt sorry  (having, himself, been in the same situation often enough).  Unfortunately, this hitch-hiker robbed him at knife-point, taking his money, his ID, his car and his shoes, and leaving him stranded on the side of the road.  After he walked about eight miles into town, he went to the local police to report this crime.

At the police department, he was arrested, and taken to jail as a “suspected illegal.” When he finally won his release about a week later, he’d not only lost his job, but we learned that no investigation of the robbery had occurred, and, indeed, his car had not even been reported as stolen.

These kinds of incidents are toxic to the trust most law enforcement leaders say is essential to good community policing. If undocumented workers—or even folks with legal status who might be wrongly profiled as undocumented—fear that interaction with police may risk their own arrest, they will not report crimes and they won’t cooperate with police as sources of information or testimony. This is why so many law enforcement leaders oppose Measure 105.

The English word “outlaw” comes from a time in ancient England when the king would declare that certain individuals were beyond the protection of the law.  These individuals were left to protect themselves and their families in any way they could, or tolerate being victimized.  The inevitable exploitation and violence not only affected them, but generally degraded the quality of life of everyone in the community.

ORS 181A.820 has, for thirty years prevented the legal creation of this type of outlaw class in Oregon communities.  But have no doubt that we’d quickly return to the “bad old days” that preceded its adoption, if Ballot measure 105 repeals it.

All of us who care about justice must stand up to the right-wing white supremacists who are pushing this benighted measure. We must get the facts, pledge to reject this measure, and get involved with others in the community working against it. (see https://orunited.org/)

We must vote NO on Measure 105.