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Everything you need to know about being a sanctuary city

Even after Hillsboro councilors voted, misconceptions surrounding the hot-button designation abound.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Residents take photos and videos as the Hillsboro city council votes to become a sanctuary city on Tuesday, March 7.With the passage of Resolution 2552, which officially declared Hillsboro a 'sanctuary city' it's time for a pop quiz:

Can an undocumented immigrants rob a bank and then come to Hillsboro and be safe from arrest? Can an undocumented immigrant live in Hillsboro without fear of being arrested if they otherwise abides by all laws and don't rely on any welfare?

The answer to both questions is no, yet Hillsboro residents on all sides of the issue have voiced those erroneous beliefs in various venues — at city council meetings, in Facebook comments and in newspaper letters to the editor.

The real issue behind the term is deportation — and the misguided hope that a formally designated "sanctuary city" could somehow protect undocumented immigrants from being deported.

That's why the Hillsboro Tribune has assembled answers for everything you wanted to know about deportation but didn't realize you needed to ask.

As you read, remember that the Hillsboro Police Department and Washington County Sheriff's Office are currently following Oregon state law ORS 181.850, which prohibits all police and deputies in Oregon from enforcing immigration laws, which are written at the federal level.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on the other hand, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is charged with enforcing those federal laws, which are likely to change as President Donald Trump's executive orders and memos related to immigration go into effect.

It's also important to know that an official "sanctuary city" designation for Hillsboro or Washington County would not change any of the following information.

Q: Are undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes — apart from being in the country illegally — safe from arrest in an officially designated "sanctuary city?"

A: No. Law enforcement officers at all levels — local, state and federal — will enforce laws and arrest people for committing crimes unrelated to immigration status, regardless of any 'sanctuary city' label.

Q: Can someone get deported if they're arrested for something, even if they're not guilty?

A: Hillsboro police and sheriff's deputies never check immigration status when they arrest someone. They are more concerned with building trust in their communities "so all victims have confidence they can call police without fear of being swept up because of their immigration status," according to Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett. "The focus must be on protecting everyone in the community, holding offenders accountable and preventing and solving crimes."

However, everyone who gets arrested gets booked at the Washington County Jail, where staff are required to notify ICE if the person reports they were born in another country. Staff also give ICE basic information about the person such as name, date of birth, reported place of birth and a release date if that's known. In addition, the booked person's fingerprints go through the Law Enforcement Data System, which will show if they have an ICE or FBI identification number for deportation. In that case, a federal judge can issue a warrant to hold the person, although that has been rare.

Q: So someone could get arrested for speeding or forgetting to wear a seatbelt and end up getting deported?

A: Most driving-related offenses are violations, not crimes, and offenders are cited and fined, not arrested. Even if people are arrested and identified as non-legal residents, ICE has not paid much attention to those charged with low-level crimes (from trespassing to drunken driving) who have committed no other crimes. And the jail will not hold people past their local release date just for ICE.

Across Oregon, however, cooperation varies widely from jail to jail and county to county, regardless of the Oregon law, according to Rose Richeson, a spokesperson for ICE's northwest field office.

Q: Under former president Barack Obama, did ICE arrest or deport undocumented immigrants just for being here illegally even if they committed no other crimes?

A: That was not ICE policy and "we were not allowed to stray from that policy," Richeson said.

Q: What if someone calls and reports that their neighbor is here illegally? Will Hillsboro Police or sheriff's deputies go find and arrest the neighbor?

A: No, although the callers might be referred to ICE. Under Obama, ICE followed up only on criminal leads, unrelated to illegal residence. But in his "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" executive order, Trump has indicated he wants to go further, expanding the priority list for deportation to anyone who has "engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency" (which could include working undocumented immigrants who have gotten fake social security numbers or ID papers), or who "has abused any program related to receipt of public benefits" (there is a perception that undocumented immigrants are getting welfare or other government aid), among other categories.

In addition, Trump's executive order on "Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements" directs the Department of Homeland Security to "expand expedited removal throughout the country."

Q: What if a local homeowner or school or church wanted to harbor a family of undocumented immigrants. Would the family be safe there?

A; Technically, no. ICE agents could enter with a warrant and people who tried to block them in any way could be charged with some sort of crime. Back in the 1980s, church members involved in the "sanctuary movement" were convicted of transporting illegal aliens when they tried to protect undocumented political refugees.

Q: Is there anything federal agents could order the Hillsboro Police or Washington County Sheriff's Office to do that would violate state law?

A: Federal agents can't require local police to enforce federal law, according to a 1997 court case (Printz v. U.S.). The federal government can try to encourage cooperation — by offering grant money to do so, for example — but federal agents have no authority to order local police to take specific actions...at least not at the moment.

ICE has not yet received specific implementation directives for Trump's executive orders, Richeson said. Those will be drawn up by Homeland Security and it's unclear when they will be passed down and enforced.

But Trump's executive order will "empower state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer ... in relation to the investigation, apprehension or detention of aliens in the United States."

It also "shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply ... (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive federal grants ... The Attorney General shall take appropriate enforcement action against any entity ... which has in effect a statute, policy or practice that prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal law."

So in the end, it may not matter whether Hillsboro or Washington County officially declares themselves a "sanctuary." Trump will do it for them. According to his order, the Secretary of Homeland Security "has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction" — for purposes of penalizing it.

Sources: Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, ICE Northwest Field Office spokeswoman Rose Richeson.