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Oregon State Police, Hillsboro, Clackamas County Sheriff To Defy ICE Subpoenas

<p>The Oregon State Police emblem is shown Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Rural legislators are pushing back against a budget-slashing plan to cut detectives from the Oregon State Police in a last-ditch effort to rescue positions they say are critical to public safety in sparsely populated areas. The issue is of particular significance to rural areas, where state police detectives and troopers often serve as an extra local police agency for areas suffering from budget cutbacks to county sheriffs and police departments.</p>

The Oregon State Police emblem is shown Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Rural legislators are pushing back against a budget-slashing plan to cut detectives from the Oregon State Police in a last-ditch effort to rescue positions they say are critical to public safety in sparsely populated areas. The issue is of particular significance to rural areas, where state police detectives and troopers often serve as an extra local police agency for areas suffering from budget cutbacks to county sheriffs and police departments.

The Oregon State Police, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office and the city of Hillsboro said they won't comply with a new strategy from federal immigration officials to issue administrative subpoenas aimed at circumventing sanctuary laws.

Last month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested details about four Mexican nationals, one charged with meth possession, two others arrested for driving under the influence, and another man charged with possession and distribution of heroin. ICE wants information, like last known addresses, in order to begin deportation proceedings.

ICE has also subpoenaed the Wasco County Sheriff's Office. Officials there say they intend to comply with the new strategy, but would seek clarification from a judge about the scope of the response. When pressed, attorneys for the sheriff’s office declined to offer any details about how that process would unfold.

Oregon is a sanctuary state, meaning law enforcement doesn't cooperate with ICE. Under the Trump administration, the state's law has been strengthened to prohibit sharing of information. In an effort to get some cooperation with sanctuary cities and states, this year, ICE began turning to administrative subpoenas, which aren't signed by a judge.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office received a subpoena last month. It was the first in the country to publicly say they would honor ICE's subpoena. Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett has declined interview requests.

In Wasco County's response to ICE, it pointed to its ongoing litigation with the Department of Homeland Security focused on Oregon's sanctuary law as it applies to the county's agreement to house immigration detainees.

"Resulting legal fees, shouldered by our taxpayer citizens, are approximately $300,000.00 to date. That litigation is still

pending and legal fees continue to accrue," wrote the county's attorneys.

"We expect the burden of compliance to be additional litigation resulting in significant expense to Wasco County. In the meantime, it is our intent to cooperate with ICE to every extent practicable to reach a resolution."

Since the subpoenas were issued, agencies in New York, California and Connecticut have said they too would comply.

"OSP regards subpoena as improper for a number of reasons," Oregon Deputy Attorney General Frederick Boss wrote in a letter to ICE.

Boss wrote that the information ICE is seeking is information the agency already has or could get through other means.

"The unavoidable suggestion is that the subpoena is a pretext for airing political grievances with Oregon law — laws that ICE grossly mischaracterizes," Boss wrote.

Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway said the city was acting out of a matter of principle, but also noted the city doesn't condone criminal activity.

“ICE has taken a political action, making a strategic decision to use an administrative subpoena to undermine state and local law," Callaway said in a release. "We will not go along with this tactic at the expense of our community members. We will not be used as a political chess piece. We will stand up for what’s right — and what’s legal.”

In Colorado, the city of Denver is also defying an ICE subpoena. The case is before a federal judge whose ruling could set a precedent.

In Oregon, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams has said local law enforcement must comply with federal law and his office is willing to go to court.

“We’re prepared to do what we do, which is go to court,” Williams told OPB last month. “If we need to go to court we’ll do that.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Oregon said they were reviewing the responses and weighing next steps.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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