This fall, Oregonians will vote on a ballot measure that would overturn sanctuary laws barring state and local law enforcement from helping deport undocumented immigrants.
No other local official has embraced those sanctuary rules with the zest of Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese.
He refuses to allow his office to provide mug shots to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The public can have them—but not the feds. And last year, his office also stopped handing over booking reports, which list every person arrested and taken to jail.
"Cooperation from Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and probation has recently been reduced from limited to nonexistent," one ICE officer complained in a March 2017 email after being denied access to mug shots.
But ICE officials have found a way around Reese's resistance. They went to the U.S. Marshals Service, which already had access to some of the booking data and didn't mind sharing them.
It's the latest move in a cold war between the U.S. Justice Department and Oregon officials who don't support the Trump administration's immigration policies.
Emails newly obtained by WW show that the Marshals Service, which rents beds in Multnomah County jails, regularly sends lists created by Reese's office containing names of federal inmates held in Portland jails to ICE—without informing the sheriff.
The emails—which WW obtained last week in a records request for communications between local cops and federal agents—show that despite sanctuary laws, any information shared with a federal law enforcement agency for non-immigration purposes can easily wind up in the hands of ICE.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, which regularly defends the sanctuary statute, says it supports Reese's decision to withhold the reports, but questions whether that can effectively keep the data out of the immigration agency's hands.
"The federal government should be transparent about how they are operating in local communities," says ACLU of Oregon legal director Mat dos Santos. "Transparency is the cornerstone of democracy. But jail booking records are already publicly available to anyone who wants to see them, including ICE."
The weekly booking reports, created by the county's Sheriff Warrant Information System, include inmates' names, nationalities and other identifying information. ICE can use these reports to track where immigrants in federal custody are being held—and usher them out of the country.
The sheriff's office says it is required by contract to share these reports with U.S. marshals—in order to bill the federal agency for beds it rents in the county jails. That places local cops in a bind.
"Once we give the reports to the U.S. Marshals Service, it's their document," says sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Brandon White. "What they do with it after that is kind of their business."
White says Reese did not know the U.S. marshals were sharing the booking reports with ICE. He says the sheriff's office checks immigrants' country of birth in the system to notify the consulates of their home countries.
The Marshals Service confirms it's sharing the reports. "We share information on a regular, routine basis with the federal partners that have a need to know where the inmates in our federal custody are housed," says Pete Cajigal, deputy chief of the U.S. Marshals Service, Oregon District. "We send it to ICE on a regular basis."
ICE says it needs the reports to do its job. "The sharing of booking information enables ICE to target individuals subject to immigration enforcement who are in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service on federal criminal charges," says ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell.
The actions of the U.S. Marshals Service are the latest example of how easily federal officials can circumvent Oregon's controversial policies making the state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
The state's 1987 sanctuary statute bars Oregon law enforcement agencies from using state or local resources to enforce federal immigration laws. A measure on the November ballot could repeal that law, freeing up local law enforcement agencies to provide support to ICE.
Although Reese happily complies with the sanctuary law, other sheriffs in the state chafe at it. Sixteen sheriffs, who represent counties that make up less than 20 percent of the state's population, signed a letter Monday urging Oregonians to vote in favor of the repeal. The group echoed President Donald Trump's rhetoric by invoking the Iowa murder of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant.