The recent decision by the federal government to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals causes me to once again reflect on the relationship between our immigrant communities and local law enforcement.
As I am out and about in the greater Woodburn community, I hear of continued confusion, fear and mistrust of government among immigrant communities.
Critical to our mission as local police officers is the notion that people in our community, particularly our immigrant communities, trust us and not fear us. Trust cultivates an environment of cooperation with victims and witnesses of crime, cooperation that we desperately need to keep our community safe.
The ongoing controversies surrounding immigration issues in our country unfortunately plays counter to that mission, resulting in emotions encouraging fear — not trust — and stifling any such cooperation.
Oregon law, which we follow and enforce, guides us in our daily work of keeping our community safe. ORS 181A.820 helps reinforce the goal of mutual trust and respect between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.
This Oregon law specifically prohibits local law enforcement from engaging solely in administrative immigration matters.
The statute does, however, allow for local law enforcement involvement in immigration matters when circumstances of a crime are present, including a person subject to arrest pursuant to a warrant issued by a federal magistrate.
The decisions surrounding immigration policy and its future are mired in politics well beyond the reach of local law enforcement. What is within the reach of both local law enforcement and our immigrant communities are opportunities to continue fostering mutual trust and respect.
Now is the time for us to come together and work hard to overcome any fear and mistrust of local law enforcement.
We can do this together through building and maintaining positive relationships, being transparent, practicing the tenets of police legitimacy and procedural justice, and working in partnership to keep our community a safe place to live, work and visit.
Jim Ferraris is the chief of the Woodburn Police Department. To read the Oregon statues mentioned in this letter, go to www.oregonlaws.org.