SALEM — The nation’s top immigration-enforcement official stressed to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that the Trump administration is focused on deporting the “violent and dangerous offenders” among the undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Brown was in Washington, D.C., last week for the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. She met with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, as well as several other cabinet secretaries.
“They had no intention of picking up folks who did not have criminal penalties. I specifically asked him about folks who had, for example, a drug charge 20 years ago. He said that is not their target,” Brown said in an interview Tuesday.
She invited Kelly to Oregon to get a first-hand understanding of how the Trump administration policies are affecting immigrant families.
“What I explained to him is that this is creating great fear in our communities around the state of Oregon. I used some examples of families that I knew. Folks are concerned about coming to courthouses. They can’t go to simple criminal or civil or family law hearings because they’re afraid they’re going to get picked up,” Brown said.
“He said that is not their target, that is not their focus, that the media is distorting all of this.”
A 1987 state law established Oregon as what is now called a “sanctuary” state. That law bans local and state law enforcement from using immigration status as the sole reason to investigate or arrest someone.
After President Donald Trump said his administration would crack down on illegal immigration, Brown signed an executive order on Feb. 2 that reaffirmed the 1987 Oregon law and expanded it to other state agencies.
Salem on Monday became the latest Oregon community to adopt a “sanctuary” resolution. The City Council voted unanimously to ban use of city resources to enforce federal immigration law.
After the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal funding, some communities withdrew their “sanctuary” designations. Brown said Kelly did not indicate Oregon would lose federal dollars.
“I will continue to fight back and protect Oregon. I want us to remain an inclusive and welcoming state to our immigrant and refugee populations,” she said.
Brown told Kelly that the federal immigration roundups created distrust among immigrants, making them afraid to go to courthouses, state agencies or jobs for fear of being targeted. As a result, the immigration enforcement also will harm the Oregon economy, because immigrants are the backbone of the agriculture, forestry and other industries.
On other topics, Brown said:
• As the Trump administration looks to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price promised that no one would lose health care coverage. Oregon has added 400,000 residents to state health insurance through the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
• Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, agreed with Brown that the Superfund cleanup of the Portland harbor needed to proceed faster.