Ramon Ramirez remembers the bad old days, the days when racial profiling in Oregon was rampant and uncontrolled. The days when local police grabbed citizens off the street and demanded to see ID. The days when the browner color of a person’s skin alone could make them a police suspect.
Then, in 1987, the Oregon state government took a step to end this terror. That year the state legislature passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, an anti-profiling law that has come to be known as Oregon’s “sanctuary” law. The law protects against unfair targeting, interrogating, and detaining of Oregonians simply because they are perceived to be undocumented.
The law has gradually improved the situation in Oregon. As a civil rights leader and long-time resident of Woodburn, Oregon, Ramirez can testify to this.
“Before Oregon had this law, I saw immigration agents, aided by local police, busting down doors and grabbing people off the street, with no way of knowing their immigration status,” Ramirez said. “My friends and neighbors, including U.S. citizens, were being harassed by local police demanding to see their papers. Passing this law made things a lot better.”
Recently, the law has come under attack. A ballot measure initiated by the Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) has qualified for the November ballot. Measure 105 has one aim: to throw out the long-standing state “sanctuary” law that has protected Oregonians from unfair racial profiling for over 30 years.
OFIR’s innocuous-sounding name belies its actual goals. The group has deep ties to a national network of anti-immigrant organizations seeking to reduce immigration to the U.S, including the Minutemen and the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has contributed significant funding in support of Measure 105.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union has teamed up with immigrant rights group Causa Oregon and over 200 other businesses, labor unions, faith groups, civil rights organizations, and law enforcement leaders to create Oregonians United Against Profiling. Together, we have launched a statewide campaign to defeat Measure 105 in November.
Oregon’s “sanctuary” law is nothing radical. In fact, it was passed with the support of Republicans and Democrats. Under the current law, local police retain the authority to arrest and prosecute anyone who commits a crime. The law also permits Oregon police to hold unauthorized immigrants if federal officials have obtained a judicial warrant. What police can’t do is detain someone on baseless grounds, such as their skin color or facial features, which was happening 30 years ago.
The ACLU stands in opposition to Measure 105 because getting rid of Oregon’s anti-profiling law would open the door to more civil rights violations in Oregon. Right now, immigrants in Oregon don’t need to worry that calling the police will lead to harassment or their families being torn apart. Throwing out the “sanctuary” law could turn Oregon’s police into an arm of Trump’s deportation force.
For three decades, Oregon’s sanctuary law has, in the words of Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, given “clear guidance to local law enforcement on complicated immigration issues.” The law allows local police to focus on solving crime and keeping communities safe while providing important civil rights protections. That is why, come November, it is important to say no to Measure 105.