City & Government, Community, Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove, Sheriff’s Office resolve immigration violations

While Oregon was an early-adopter of laws which protect immigrants from federal agencies like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), outstanding issues remain throughout the state.

In fact, Oregon was the first state in the nation to enact a statewide law, the Sanctuary Promise Act (SPA), to stop state and local police and government from helping federal authorities with immigration enforcement in 1987. Since then, only about 10 other states and the District of Columbia have followed suit.

For this reason, the Cottage Grove-based Rural Organizing Project (ROP) stated that “Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act is one of the strongest laws in the nation to protect all members of our community.”

But data shows that at least 20 counties across Oregon are currently in violation of the Sanctuary Promise Act (SPA).

Earlier this winter, a nearly year-long lawsuit against the City of Cottage Grove by ROP and Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) resulted in the judgment that the City must change the language of its policies and practices to abide by the SPA. The ruling also stated that the Cottage Grove Police Department (CGPD) must receive training specific to the SPA on a regular basis.

Police chief Cory Chase was hired after the lawsuit was filed, and is now responsible for carrying out the final ruling.

“The ask was: Now that we’ve made some clarifying language (changes), we want you to follow the policy, and we want you to follow the law,” Chase said. “That’s what we should be doing, so I don’t disagree with that. Our job is to follow the policy, and we will follow the law. It’s not like I have an issue with that because that’s what you should be doing.”

Since the ruling and the change of leadership at CGPD, ROP community resource organizer Abelio Carrillo said the migrant community from Guatemala that lives in Cottage Grove feels racial profiling has lessened and those people feel safer now.

“Before the lawsuit, I was getting a bunch of phone calls from the community saying different stuff like a lot of racial profiling was going on and also that they were fearing cops and didn’t want to go pay their citation,” Carrillo said. “They didn’t want to even go into their office because they were afraid to get ICE called on them.”

He brought up allegations people shared where ICE was called on people because of their last names or because they didn’t speak English.

“Now after this lawsuit, I haven’t had any phone calls like, ‘Can you go pay this citation?’ and I also haven’t heard about anyone complaining like, ‘I just got pulled over because of this,’” he said.

While the City of Cottage Grove has agreed to changes resolving its SPA violations, The Chronicle found that Lane County Sheriff’s office was in violation through data available on ROP’s website.

Tim Wallace, a public information officer for LCSO, emailed The Chronicle on March 20 to discuss the potential violations. After Wallace reviewed the data, he did find a general order (GO) which appeared to be in violation: GO 12.10 Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE). Wallace said GO 12.10 allowed ICE to have access to pre-book, which goes against GO 2.04 Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws.

“No federal immigration agent may enter any areas of a law enforcement building that is not open to the public,” states GO 2.04 (D). “This includes FBI or DEA if those agents are working on any immigration issue.”

“While not inside the secure facility, (pre-book) is an area not generally open to the public. This order has been struck from our GOs entirely, as it does not comply with the law, nor is it in compliance with our other general orders, policies, and procedures,” Wallace wrote via email. “I’m not sure how GO 12.10 slipped through the cracks, other than to say it does not reflect our current operations, and it is no longer an existing GO. I’m very glad your request uncovered this oversight!”

GO 12.10 has since been unassigned from LCSO’s list of general orders as it is no longer in use. All general orders can be found on the LCSO website, which operations lieutenant Ryan Wells said “is making things a lot better and easier, and transparency is what we’re trying to strive for.”

Wells added that GO 12.10’s recent existence was simply “an oversight from after we changed our procedures and ways of doing things after the law changed.”

“That one got overlooked during the process, and so it was there, but that’s not how we were doing business. We just didn’t realize it (was still there),” he said. “I do truly appreciate (The Chronicle) pointing it out to us because it was just a sheer human error on our part so that we could actually just get rid of it completely. Once we actually opened it up and looked at it, we were like, ‘This isn’t even close to what we do anymore, so it’s just not even worth having.’”

ROP is currently working on updating its interactive map on its website to change Lane County from pink status, which signifies that a county is in violation of the SPA, to blue status, which signifies that a county is following Oregon state laws.

The Rural Organizing Project has an interactive graphic on its website to showcase which counties within Oregon are abiding by the Sanctuary Promise Act. At the moment, Lane County is still colored pink, but ROP is working to change that to blue now that Lane County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Cottage Grove have both complied with the SPA.

“That was powerful. That was really powerful. It just goes to show that a little bit of pressure and trying to round out the whole story can really lead to some important action, and we’re hoping that the rest of the counties keep falling like this,” ROP development and communications coordinator Sam Corti said. “If you’re not up to date, if your policies don’t comply with the Sanctuary Promise Act, then you will not be blue on the map.

“We need to make sure that all policies across the state are not violating our immigrants’ rights. The work was not done by just getting the law on the books. Now we need to be watchdogs and make sure that it is being implemented in our counties and in our cities.”



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