The U.S. Department of Justice is determined to strong-arm Oregon into abandoning its decades-old sanctuary laws that prevent local law enforcement officers from reporting undocumented immigrants to federal immigration agents.
The federal Justice Department, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has signaled its intent to crack down on Oregon for its sanctuary policies in a second letter sent to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.
The DOJ first sent a threat in November to pull grant money out of Oregon if the state did not explain its policies on cooperating with federal immigration officials.
The agency's follow-up letter indicates that the DOJ is not backing down over the state's sanctuary policies.
Jon Adler, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, sent the letter Wednesday morning asking for additional documents related to Oregon's sanctuary policies and warning that if the DOJ decided those policies violated the grant requirements then the federal agency would pull funding out of the state.
Oregon accepted more than $2 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program in fiscal year 2016—and the DOJ says at least two state laws may violate the agreement that Oregon signed on to when it took the money.
One is the brand-new ban on sharing addresses or contact information with federal immigration officials to aid immigration-related investigations passed in 2017. The other is the state's longtime prohibition on using state or local resources, including personnel, equipment and money, to support immigration enforcement operations.
State officials and federal immigration agents have been at odds since the Trump Administration took over in 2016 and changed the federal priorities for immigration enforcement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly rebuked the state's protections for undocumented immigrants. At the same time, Oregon representatives have demanded answers from ICE after a series of incidents where immigration agents were caught acting questionably.
Oregon officials have stood firm behind state and local policies that limit cooperation with ICE agents.
"Oregon will not be bullied by a Trump Administration that's focused on dividing our country," Governor Kate Brown tweeted in response to the DOJ's threats. "Oregon is a welcoming place for all who call our state home. These values were affirmed some 30 years ago in state statute, which are in full compliance with federal law. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the rights and values of all Oregonians are protected."
Yet the issue may soon go to voters: A group of activists is gathering signatures statewide to place a repeal of Oregon's sanctuary law on the November ballot.