At Wednesday’s Portland City Council meeting to discuss a sanctuary resolution, one might have been confused by the interruptions by members of Don’t Shoot Portland who sang “We Shall Overcome” and chanted the name of Quanice Hayes, the 17-year-old black teenager recently shot and killed by Portland Police. A stream of well-meaning immigrant activists approached the leader of Don’t Shoot Portland, Teressa Raiford, to beg her and her group not to interrupt the meeting. At one point, I heard one person ask an immigrant rights advocate to speak with Raifford: “You’re African American. Maybe she’ll listen to you,” he said. It didn’t work.
Drowned out by singing and chanting, Mayor Ted Wheeler and the rest of City Council abandoned the chambers twice, returning each time to try again, but once non-invited testimony began, the hearing proceeded in a relatively orderly fashion. While it might have seemed that these two groups, the immigrant rights advocates and Don’t Shoot Portland folks, were at odds with each other, nothing could be further from the truth.
In addition to calling out the name of Quanice Hayes, Don’t Shoot Portland was asking for real sanctuary in Portland, not just for immigrants but for native-born communities of color who are disproportionately targeted by the police.
The discriminatory policing of communities of color is not even a debatable question anymore with the reams of data that prove its existence. Studies show black Portlanders are 30 times more likely than whites to be busted for cocaine possession, 27 times as likely to be charged with “spitting in public” and 9 times more likely to be hit with the laughable crime of not crossing at a right-angle.
At the City Council meeting there were more than 50 people who testified in favor of sanctuary, with many of them arguing for an even stronger sanctuary resolution that would actually protect immigrants in the city. Nobody spoke against the idea of sanctuary.
Although Portland is a sanctuary city in a sanctuary county in a sanctuary state, there is nothing to prevent ICE from operating within the city limits. However, there are four ways that Portland can make sanctuary have real meaning.
1) End broken windows policing.
The kinds of racially discriminatory policing of low-level offenses, including public urination, littering, and jaywalking disproportionately affect Latino and Black communities, the former of which make up the bulk of immigrants in the city, documented and undocumented. A Portland Tribune investigation found that Latinos were eight times as likely as whites to be charged with driving without a license.
Once the police arrest and book someone into the county jail, their fingerprints are automatically sent to federal authorities and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is alerted. Broken windows policing leads directly to deportation and mass incarceration.
Sanctuary resolutions are largely symbolic therefore unless the city stops delivering vulnerable immigrants into the hands of ICE agents eager to ramp up deportations. Ultimately, Portland’s mayor has to decide how important it is for police to enforce crossing at a right-angle and spitting in public ordinances, because such policing can end up separating a father from his American born children through deportation.
2. Sanction city employees who violate Oregon state and Portland city sanctuary laws.
The state sanctuary statute ORS 181.20 prohibiting use of state or local resources to enforce federal immigrations laws was passed in 1987, and yet just a few months ago Multnomah County deputy sheriffs were found to be communicating directly to ICE about the whereabouts of immigrants. The intergovernmental four-county jail in the Dalles named Norcor has also been renting out bed space for ICE detention. None of these apparent violations of Oregon’s sanctuary statute have been prosecuted. Unless the city resolution includes disciplinary action for employees who communicate with ICE, the resolution will be a nice piece of rhetoric that does little to protect immigrants.
3. End Police Code 810.10 Arrest of Foreign Nationals
As ACLU legal director Mat Dos Santos made clear in his testimony at City Council, although the city’s sanctuary resolution purports to disentangle city employees from immigration enforcement, Portland Police code 810.10 allows them to cooperate with ICE. In fact, this code not only allows sharing of information, but it empowers Portland Police to act as an auxiliary security force when ICE is engaged in deportation raids. The code plainly reads, “ICE may request members provide assistance during a mission to enforce federal immigration laws.”
This code is so blatantly a contradiction with the letter and spirit of the state, county and city sanctuary laws that it must be abolished in order to provide a coherent legal framework for police interactions with ICE.
4. Fight Unconstitutional Federal Statutes 1373 and 1644 in Court.
In 1996, the federal government passed two statutes (1373 and 1644) that were designed to obstruct local jurisdiction’s sanctuary laws. 1373 prohibits states and local governments from enforcing their sanctuary laws by declaring it illegal to prevent communication with federal immigration officers. Clearly the Oregon state law, as well as all county and city sanctuary resolutions seem at odds with this federal statute. This should not be surprising given that the federal statutes were meant to prevent localities from enacting sanctuary.
San Francisco’s District Attorney recently filed a suit against President Trump over this statute, declaring 1373 is “unconstitutional on its face.” Portland immigration lawyer Stephen Manning has also found 1373 to be “likely unconstitutional” and a violation of the 10th Amendment commandeering clause preventing the federal government from coercing cities and states to do the work of the federal government.
Even as Commissioner Nick Fish declared in City Council that 1373 was unconstitutional, the Council’s resolution says it will be “executed in a manner consistent” with this federal statute. Why would Portland want to make its sanctuary resolution consistent with an unconstitutional anti-sanctuary federal statute? The legal not to mention the moral reasoning here is beyond me.
Portland City Council’s resolution is like declaring that they uphold the idea of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape to freedom at the same time as they proclaim compliance with the Fugitive Slave Act that returned escaped slaves to the South.
You can’t have it both ways. Either we want to protect immigrants, uphold the U.S. Constitution and our Oregon state law, or we will comply with the federal anti-sanctuary statute.
Portland City Council should be applauded for taking up the mantle of sanctuary in their resolution which passed late in the afternoon on Wednesday, but the fine print reveals contradictions, lack of enforcement mechanisms and an unwillingness to confront Trump’s unconstitutional threats against sanctuary cities.
Until black and brown people like Quanice Hayes are safe from police shooting in Portland, declarations of sanctuary will ring hollow. Let’s make sanctuary real for all Portlanders, immigrants and native-born people of color. That’s the Portland way, not a watered-down sanctuary declaration with no teeth and little hope of protecting the vulnerable among us.