Commissioners declare “Sanctuary County”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

At the regular Dec. 6, 2016 board meeting, the Benton County commissioners declared Benton County a “sanctuary county” and formally adopted the written declaration at today's Dec. 20, 2016 board meeting.

Following the November general election, an increasing number of higher education institutions and municipalities declared sanctuary status to support undocumented individuals and their families because President-elect Trump pledged mass deportations of undocumented immigrants during his campaign.

A portion of Benton County’s declaration reads:

“Benton County will not participate in or facilitate any federal efforts to register individuals based on their religious affiliation or other status. The Sheriff’s Office will respect the rights of and provide equal access to all individuals, regardless of religion, race, and ethnicity or immigration status.”

Oregon forbids local and state law enforcement agencies from apprehending persons violating federal immigration laws if that person is not involved in criminal activity.

Under ORS 181A.820, local and state law enforcement cannot require a person to prove immigration status and/or apprehend people for civil immigration violations. However, the law does allow law enforcement to request information from and/or share information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after an individual is arrested.

ORS 181A.820 serves an important “whistleblower” function by ensuring that witnesses and victims of crime can report information without fear of retaliation.

“The county has a history of building a caring, inclusive, and strong communities,” said Commissioner Jaramillo.

“Even though state law already declares Oregon as a sanctuary state, as elected officials we felt it necessary to make a public statement to our communities. We strive to be a county that advances inclusivity and provides safe environments that are free of prejudice, bigotry and bullying,” said Jaramillo.