The Oregon Department of Justice has three dozen open investigations into allegations that state or local agencies violated Oregon’s sanctuary laws that forbid police and other government officials from collecting information about a person’s immigration status, according to an annual state report released Monday. 

Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act, a 2021 law that built upon existing sanctuary statutes in place since 1987, requires the annual reports. The law is intended to prevent state and local Oregon agencies from working with federal immigration officials based solely on a person’s immigration status.

It gives assurances to undocumented immigrants that they can report crimes to police or speak with county clerks and social services workers without fear of deportation.

The state’s Criminal Justice Commission compiles the reports and the Oregon Department of Justice investigates complaints of potential violations and runs a hotline to take calls from the public. The Pew Research Center estimated Oregon had about 110,000 immigrants in 2016 without proper documentation. 

Sanctuary Promise Act violations can include asking, collecting or sharing information about a person’s immigration status or national origin, using state or local agency resources to help enforce federal immigration laws or giving federal immigration agents special access to areas in a state or local agency’s facility that are not open to the public.

Oregonians will have a greater sense of belonging because the law provides transparency and documents reports from the public, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement.

“Oregon thrives when everyone can go to work, send their kids to school and contribute to their communities, without fear that an interaction with local or state government will result in their deportation,” Rosenblum said. “Oregon’s sanctuary laws keep families together and make the fabric of our state stronger.”

The report found:

  • The Oregon Department received 51 reports of alleged violations for the one-year period from June 1, 2022 through May 31.
  • Thirty-six of those reports have open state investigations into alleged violations. The other 15 reports either did not allege violations of the law or did not have enough information for the state to open an investigation. Those calls included general questions about immigration law and callers in unrelated mental health crises. 
  • Twenty-six of the 51 reports were about public agencies cooperating or sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The justice department would not identify the agencies that are under investigation as the cases are open. 

The Oregon Department of Justice’s hotline is staffed with advocates who can speak in multiple languages: more than 240 in all. In 2022, hotline staffers provided nearly 200 presentations, 400 hours of outreach and trained more than 10,000 Oregonians about Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report.