On Tuesday, Oregon voters shot down Measure 105, designed to repeal the state’s 31-year old sanctuary status.
The Statesman Journal reports that about 63 percent of 1.4 million votes were cast to keep the existing statute. Under its current law, Oregon prohibits local police from enforcing immigration law or passing on certain types of information to federal immigration authorities.
Advocates of the proposal say sanctuary laws—found in cities and states across the country—embolden undocumented immigrants and encourage crime.
In August, a coalition of Oregon sheriffs issued a statement urging support for Measure 105.
“Immigration-law violations are… precursors to other crimes illegal immigrants routinely commit in their efforts to conceal their illegal presence,” Clatsop County Sheriff Thomas Bergin said. He added that state law, as it exists and as it was challenged, protects undocumented criminals from punishment.
Bergin’s position was heavily criticized by the state’s liberal media. A Portland-Mercury article claims the sheriffs’ observations reveal “a general cluelessness” about the life of migrants in the United States.
Sanctuary laws have often been touted as shields against injustice. Opponents of Measure 105, says the Statesman, claim sanctuary ordinances counter racial profiling. Others claim that discarding the threat of deportation can empower migrants to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement investigations.
“We have done it!” wrote backers of ‘No on 105’ on Facebook. “We have defended Oregon’s values and said no to those who want to divide immigrant and non-immigrant Oregonians!”
The American Civil Liberties Union called the defeat a rejection of “racism, xenophobia, and the politics of division and fear-mongering.”
“Elected officials should take note: the politics of division and hate have no place in Oregon. You will not succeed if you tie yourself to them. The days of targeting vulnerable communities for political gains are over,” said David Rogers, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon.
The Statesman gave voice to several of the measure’s proponents, who seemed to take the initiative’s failure in stride.
“Well, that’s disappointing, of course,” Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians for Reform, said. “But our goal was to give Oregon voters a chance to vote, and they voted.”
Campaign financing may have played a role in Measure 105’s defeat. The Statesman claims that ‘millions of dollars in contributions’ poured into political action groups for and against the proposal.
But ultimately, opponents of Measure 105 outspent its advocates by a massive 27-to-1 margin.
Police officials in other parts of Oregon avoided taking a stance on the initiative and its outcome. Salem’s department emphasized how residents should continue to keep faith in law enforcement.
“Our success as an agency is dependent on a community willing and unafraid to contact the police when they see a crime occurring or are themselves a victim of crime,” said Salem police spokesman Lt. Michael Bennett.
And Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton told the Statesman they wouldn’t have upended their department’s policy even if Measure 105 had passed.
“We’re not going to be going out and asking people for their papers,” Garton said. “That’s not what the taxpayers pay us to do.”