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Immigrant-rights demonstrators on Nov. 21, 2016 in front of City Hall.  (Photo: Julia Reihs/juliareihs.com)

A new initiative aimed for the Oregon ballot would revise the state’s constitution, and strip away its 30-year old sanctuary protections.

Passed in 1987, the state sanctuary law ORS 181A.820 prevents law enforcement agencies from “detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of the law” is their immigration status. If the person in question has committed a criminal offense, state law enforcement may exchange information with ICE to verify immigration status or obtain criminal information.

Initiative Petition 22, or “Stop Oregon Sanctuaries,” would repeal that law, allowing the federal government to pressure local law enforcement officials into enforcing immigration law.

Joel Iboa, an opponent of IP 22, says requiring local law enforcement agents to enforce federal law would reinforce boundaries between communities of color and police.

“What we need as Oregonians is law enforcement,” said Iboa, “the officials, employees, and personnel to be focused on the safety of our communities, both big and small, and not to be enforcing federal immigration law.”

Iboa works as the Coalition Coordinator at Causa, an immigrants-rights group out of Salem that focuses on anti-immigration legislation taking place at the state level.

Sanctuary city laws have come under fire both locally and nationally. Since the Trump Administration entered the White House, cities have been pressured from the Justice Department to comply with immigration enforcement officials and remove sanctuary protections.

During a recent speech at Miami, Dade County in Florida, Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised county leaders for repealing their sanctuary city legislation and condemned cities like Chicago and Portland that held these laws in place.

On July 25, the U.S. Justice Department announced that new rules would be applied in the distribution of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. This program provides law enforcement agencies with funds to purchase equipment.

The revised rules would require grant recipients to share information, including immigration status, with the Justice Department, give open access to detention facilities, and give officials 48-hours notice before releasing prisoners with an immigration status in question.

Though these new rules are currently being challenged in a Chicago federal court, “Stop Sanctuary Cities” has claimed that Multnomah County alone would experience a loss of $321,895 in direct allocation funding.

Iboa says these claims are “simply fearmongering.”

“They’re trying to bully local states to do their work,” added Iboa, “and we simply won’t stand for it.”

Though the sponsors of IP 22 claim the bill has nothing to do with racial animus, the bill is primarily supported by Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), a right-wing organization that believes the levels of both legal and illegal immigration have grown too numerous.

OFIR couches its opposition to immigration in environmentalism, suggesting the increase in immigrants as the reason for the nation’s unsustainable practices.

The organization asserts “current immigration levels of over 1.5 million a year are unsustainable for us environmentally, socially, fiscally and politically.  Immigration at that level dissuades assimilation of new immigrants into becoming Americans.  We need to return to our traditional levels of immigration.”

If the petition gains the required 88,184 signatures, it would be placed on the ballot in November 2018.

It is the first petition to take advantage of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s new rules allowing petitions to gain signatures before the ballot titles have been approved.