Anti-sanctuary state measure qualifies for Oregon ballot

Anti-sanctuary state measure qualifies for Oregon ballot
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Voters in Oregon are set to decide whether to repeal the state’s "sanctuary" policies for undocumented immigrants after activists gathered enough signatures to force an initiative for November’s ballot.

The measure would repeal a statute passed in 1987 that prohibits state law enforcement agencies from arresting someone solely for violating federal immigration law. It would allow state law enforcement agencies to verify the immigration status of anyone arrested for a criminal offense and work with federal immigration agencies.

Supporters of the group Oregonians for Immigration Reform submitted more than 97,000 valid signatures, well over the 88,184 required to make the ballot, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

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“Across the state, hundreds of grassroots Oregonians worked to gather the signatures of tens of thousands of voters,” the group’s president, Cynthia Kendoll, said in a statement. “All are eager to end Oregon’s sanctuary policy and see their state do its part to combat, not promote, illegal immigration.” 

The group, which is listed as an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has won political fights in Oregon before. They organized against a 2014 ballot measure that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, an initiative that lost by almost a two-to-one margin.

The measure is backed by three Republican state representatives who represent rural districts.

Business and community groups started organizing against the initiative even before supporters filed their petitions. An opposition umbrella group, Oregonians United Against Profiling, counts businesses like Nike and Columbia Sportswear Company, the American Civil Liberties Union and the state Democratic Party as opponents of the measure.

“Oregon’s existing ‘sanctuary’ law has been protecting Oregonians from unfair racial profiling for 30+ years. No Oregonian, including those who may be undocumented immigrants, should have to live in fear of harassment or their families being torn apart,” the group said in a tweet earlier this month.

Oregon is one of three states, along with Illinois and California, and dozens of cities and counties that the Justice Department has designated as sanctuary jurisdictions that limit or preclude cooperation with federal immigration officials. The Justice Department in January sought records from nearly two dozen jurisdictions, including Oregon, relating to their sanctuary policies.