Several studies show that immigrants in the United States commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens and rates of violent crime in metropolitan areas fall as the immigrant population rises. Despite this, the specter of the “criminal alien” continues to haunt the popular imagination, aided by lurid media coverage highlighting the few cases of serious or violent crimes committed by immigrants.
The Trump administration has greatly expanded the groups of people targeted for removal from the U.S., while severely limiting legal immigration. Enforcement actions are taking place against a broad group of noncitizens, including those who have committed only minor crimes or even no crimes at all.
What is crimmigration?
Crimmigration broadly refers to the criminalization of migration, increased immigration detention and use of private prisons, the prison-to-deportation pipeline, and a deportation process described by one immigration judge as "what amount to death penalty cases heard in traffic court settings." Viewed narrowly, crimmigration refers to the immediate and long-term immigration consequences of criminal convictions.
What can Oregon do to protect noncitizen Oregonians and their families?
We have developed a report as a resource for legislators and others that provides analysis of the legal steps that can be taken that will help to protect noncitizen Oregonians and their families. Click here to read the report.
1. Create Pre-Plea Diversion.
Allow qualified defendants to enter pre-trial diversion or deferred adjudication without a guilty or no-contest plea.
2. Allow prior convictions to fit current law.
Oregon has already reduced maximum sentences for Class A misdemeanors from 365 days to 364 and should allow this to apply retroactively.
3. Define the prosecutor's duty.
Require prosecutors to consider avoiding adverse immigration consequences in plea negotiations.
4. Improve the effectiveness of the court's admonishment.
Warn every defendant much earlier in the legal process that if they are a noncitizen that a conviction may have serious immigration consequences so they have time to seek appropriate help.
5. Prohibit disclosure of immigration status in court.
No one should be forced to disclose their immigration status in court because it creates unnecessary risk of immigration enforcement and discrimination.
6. Define defense counsel's duty.
Require defense counsel to ensure clients understand potential outcomes of their cases and the immigration consequences so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
7. Expand post-conviction relief.
Allow defendants to apply for relief within a reasonable period of discovering they received bad advice about the immigration consequences of a plea or conviction.
Oregon can also:
1. Uphold the “sanctuary state” law.
State and local employees should be reminded of their duty to uphold the law by not using public resources to detect or apprehend people whose only violation is being present in the U.S. contrary to federal immigration law and should receive training about this. Law enforcement leaders and prosecutors should investigate violations of the “sanctuary state” law and prosecute offenders for official misconduct. Information about violations and training employees have received should be public.
2. End “broken windows” policing targeting low-level offenders.
Stop bringing people to the courts for minor offenses where they become vulnerable to aggressive ICE enforcement.
3. Limit information sharing.
Law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, probation offices, and others should create policies that make it clear to staff where contacting ICE would go beyond the scope of their duties and punish violations.
4. End local jail contracts with ICE.
Oregon’s jails should immediately stop contracting with ICE to detain noncitizens so that counties no longer profit from deportation.