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Multnomah County Sheriff Reaffirms Stance Against Immigration Holds

Sheriff Mike Reese says the federal Priority Enforcement Program "is in conflict with Oregon law."

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese says county jails still won't hold people on immigration detainers, reaffirming the county's position on a controversial federal program that Washington, D.C. officials have sought to reform and repackage.

Reese's position, outlined in a Sept. 21 letter that Portland immigration activists highlighted this week, makes clear the sheriff's office won't hold people in jail based solely on whether they've violated federal, civil immigration rules.

"Holding them beyond their local charges is a violation of their 4th Amendment right," says Lt. Chad Gaidos, a spokesman for the sheriff, referring to the guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

U.S. officials in recent months have sought to reform how local law enforcement agencies cooperate with its efforts to place immigration holds on people who've ignored deportation orders or been caught re-entering the U.S. without proper paperwork, giving it a new name and a new focus on supposedly high-priority offenders. (The program used to be called Secure Communities; it now goes by the name Priority Enforcement Program).

Reese, though, isn't buying it.

His actions follow a path set by former Sheriff Dan Staton, who in 2013 reversed course on Secure Communities, agreeing to release some people that ICE would have liked held.