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Oregonians Vote To Keep State's Sanctuary Law, Reject Measure 105

<p>Occupy ICE PDX protesters face federal law enforcement officers at the Portland ICE building on June 28, 2018, after officials worked to clear the entrance to the building.&nbsp;</p>

Arya Surowidjojo

Occupy ICE PDX protesters face federal law enforcement officers at the Portland ICE building on June 28, 2018, after officials worked to clear the entrance to the building. 

Oregonians are rejecting Measure 105 in unofficial returns, upholding the state’s decades-old sanctuary law and continuing broad limits on how much local police can cooperate with federal immigration agents.

As of Tuesday night, 36 percent had voted to scrap the law, while 63 percent voted to keep it.

"All eyes were on Oregon tonight, where our movement for immigrant rights notched a major victory, giving our movement even more momentum," said 'No on 105' campaign manager Cristina Marquez.

The race garnered national attention, especially in the weeks that led up to Election Day, as President Donald Trump did all he could to make immigration — and a caravan of migrants slowly making their way toward the U.S. southern border — central to energizing his base.

Oregon’s sanctuary law was signed into law in July 1987, after almost unanimously passing in the Legislature. It limits local and state police from enforcing federal immigration policies.

The legislation was intended to prohibit racial profiling. It says no law enforcement agency can use its resources for the sole purpose of detecting or apprehending people whose only violation is being in the country unlawfully.

Supporters of Measure 105 fought an uphill battle. The "Vote Yes" campaign trailed in the polls and raised just a fraction of the money of the opposition.

"The voters had their opportunity," said Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians For Immigration Reform, the group behind measure. "Being out spent by so much made it more difficult to get our message out. We did what we could with the resources we had."

By comparison, the "Vote No on Measure 105" campaign raised more than $3 million and was buoyed by a broad coalition that ranged from immigrant rights groups to district attorneys.

Anecdotally, voters of color said it served as a catalyst to organize, canvas and turn out and vote in this year’s midterms.

The race divided the state’s law enforcement community.

Half of Oregon's sheriffs, mostly from rural, more conservative parts of the state, said they supported Measure 105 and wanted to repeal the law. But law enforcement officials in Oregon’s more populous, progressive parts of the state lined up in support of the law and against its repeal.

“This historic victory affirms that Oregonians believe we should welcome others and build bridges of understanding with those who may seem different," Marquez said.

Kendoll didn't say what was next for the organization and those who oppose the law, but said they would not pursue anything in the legislature.

"We don’t want to give up on a great state like Oregon," she said.

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.