The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Portland, Oregon, announced that it has cleared deputies of cooperating with officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The investigation by the sheriff’s office into its own officers was possibly unlawful, said some critics. According to Fox News, Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), said that the deputies in question were the ones "following the law." 

"Under federal law, these officers have every right to cooperate with federal enforcement officers," said Mehlman. FAIR is an advocacy group that has called for lower levels of immigration. Mehlman added, "It is the Multnomah County Sheriff’s department that is out of compliance. Federal law takes precedence over any local sanctuary policies that may be in place in Multnomah County or Portland.” Disciplinary action against the officer, he said, may violate the officers’ rights and federal law. Portland is a sanctuary city that limits is cooperation with federal immigration authorities, especially with regard to federal requests to detain immigrations who may be wanted for deportation.

Sheriff Mike Reese has issued directives regarding immigration enforcement. Sheriff’s deputies are not to release any more information, for example, than is given to the general public or offer special assistance to immigration authorities if contacted by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Months ago, the sheriff’s office began investigating whether the deputies in question had violated department policy, which forbid helping ICE remove individuals who have not been convicted of a crime. 

According to the Oregonian, among the cases where sheriff’s deputies assisted ICE was Julio Montejo-Mex (21), who was arrested by ICE officers in December 2016 when he arrived for an appointment with a deputy for a required weekly meeting. He had been charged several domestic violence crimes, including assault, strangulation and kidnapping, according to the newspaper, which cited court records. In another case, Deputy Keith Fisher was investigated by the department because he sent the address and conditions of release for defendant Ventura Machiccotoc to an ICE agent in an email. "He reports to us in person on Mondays. He said he would be here at 8 a.m.," Fisher wrote to a deportation officer in July 2016, according to the Portland Tribune. "Very cool. I'll give you a call on Monday when I get to your building," the officer reportedly responded.

The sheriff’s department released a statement on Friday to the effect that deputies did not violate department policy intentionally: "After a thorough investigation into the actions of Close Street Deputies who shared information with ICE agents late last year, it has been determined that were no intentional violations of policy. The investigation revealed areas where policy direction was not clear, and members were conducting business within the parameters provided by a previous administration. The case files have been closed with a finding of Not Sustained," the statement said. 

Sheriff Reese, a Democrat, is running for reelection this year. In a recent tweet, he wrote: "We need all Mult Co residents, no matter their immigration status, to feel confident going to law enforcement w/o worry of deportation," adding, "Local law enforcement should be focused on building trust within the community, not doing the job of federal immigration enforcement." Moreover, Reese wrote in another tweet that he agreed with a federal court ruling on supposed "overreach on immigration enforcement." 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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