Oregon Voters to Decide ‘Sanctuary State’ Status in November

Sanctuary cities protest / Getty
• July 19, 2018 2:16 pm


Voters in Oregon will have the opportunity this November to decide the future of a decades-old sanctuary state law.

The Oregon secretary of state's office on Tuesday qualified an initiative for the 2018 election ballot that would repeal a 1987 law that limits the "use of state [and] local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws," according to The Oregonian.

The initiative—which qualified to appear on the November ballot with 97,762 signatures, well above the 88,184-signature threshold required—was the culmination of a year-long signature-gathering petition by Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), an advocacy group seeking to curb immigration to levels that are "environmentally sustainable."

OFIR's petition collected over 110,000 signatures and was supported by a $183,000 contribution from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a national non-partisan group advocating a stronger U.S. border control policy.

In a statement released after the measure qualified, OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll lauded the "tens of thousands" of Oregon voters mobilizing to "combat" unlawful migration.

"Across the state, hundreds of grassroots Oregonians worked to gather the signatures of tens of thousands of voters," Kendoll said. "All are eager to end Oregon's sanctuary policy and see their state do its part to combat, not promote, illegal immigration by freeing our police and sheriffs to cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities to enforce U.S. immigration law."

In 1987, Oregon became the first state in the nation to enact a statewide sanctuary law prohibiting state and local law enforcement resources from being used for "detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation" is that they are in the country illegally.

The initiative is likely to face stringent opposition from labor unions, business leaders, and immigrant-rights groups. Oregonians United Against Profiling has rallied over 100 Oregon-based groups, including the state's business giant Nike as well as local chapters of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, already committed to the measure's defeat.

Andrew Williams, a leader with Oregonians United Against Profiling and executive director of one of its partner groups, lambasted the ballot initiative in a statement released shortly after its qualification, claiming that repealing Oregon's sanctuary state status would result in "unfair racial profiling."

"This ballot measure will ask voters to throw out the state law that protects all Oregonians, including immigrant Oregonians, from unfair racial profiling," Williams said. "We're confident that Oregon values of fairness and looking out for our neighbors will prevail, and voters will say no to eliminating the law in November."

OFIR is no stranger to waging uphill battles. In 2014, the group spearheaded the rejection of a ballot initiative granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Despite proponents outspending those against the measure by about $500,000, it was overwhelmingly rejected with 66 percent of the vote.

Oregon is likely the only state to have sanctuary status referendum on the ballot this election cycle. A similar measure failed to garner the necessary requirements to qualify in California.