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Oregon GOP demands state make English offocial language, Repeal sanctuary state status


Salem, OR- Republican legislators introduced bills Wednesday that would make sweeping changes to Oregon’s stance towards undocumented immigrants.

One bill would roll back Oregon’s sanctuary state designation. That proposal and others — bills that would make English the official language of Oregon and require employers to check workers’ eligibility against a federal immigration database — are unlikely to move through the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

House Bill 2921, sponsored by Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, and Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, would require Oregon’s cities and counties to comply with federal immigration detainer requests and repeal a 1987 state law that prevents law enforcement from using resources to find or arrest undocumented immigrants living in Oregon.

The bill also would prevent cities or counties from adopting ordinances that prevent cooperation with federal immigration officials. Municipalities also could not release undocumented immigrants from police custody if a civil immigration detainer request had been issued for that person.

Esquivel and Nearman tried — and failed — last year to put Oregon’s sanctuary state designation on the ballot. They’ve filed the same proposal again, hoping to get it on the 2018 ballot. Nearman is also chief sponsor of a proposed ballot measure that would require Oregonians provide proof of citizenship to vote. It was approved for signature gathering last month.

Esquivel and Nearman, two of the Legislature’s most conservative Republicans, also introduced legislation to make English the official language of Oregon. That bill, House Bill 2923, would allow state agencies to provide services and information only in English except as required by other state and federal laws.

The state’s top elected Democrats — Gov. Kate Brown, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland — have all said they would not allow legislation rescinding Oregon’s sanctuary state designation to progress. On the contrary, Brown has signed an executive order strengthening Oregon’s laws shielding undocumented immigrants and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has made the state a partner in lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s temporary refugee immigration ban.

House Bill 2917, sponsored by Esquivel, Nearman and Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, would require state agencies and contractors they hire to use the federal E-Verify system, which allows employers to check that prospective laborers are legally allowed to work in the United States.

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