ICE Agents

ICE is a complex and conflicted issue that can be confusing and overwhelming. In today’s political climate, fear-based rhetoric has become the norm in the news about ICE and local law enforcement roles. In reality, each have distinct missions and responsibilities. ICE uses a civil, not criminal, process by which to enforce and investigate immigration matters. Your county sheriff serves the county, utilizing your tax dollars for criminal enforcement and services in your communities.

Oregon state law prohibits the use of agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States. I will uphold the laws of our state, county, and cities. I will do the job of the sheriff of this county as governed in Oregon’s laws.  I will not cooperate with ICE, in violation of Oregon Law 181A.820.

Getty/Mario Tama — New U.S. citizens gather at a naturalization ceremony, March 2018.

Under our federal system, “both the National and State Governments have elements of sovereignty the other is bound to respect.”1 While the federal government has “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens,”2 the “States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law.”3 These powers intersect when a state or city arrests an individual whom ICE would also like to apprehend for removal proceedings.

Within the Executive Branch, immigration enforcement falls primarily to DHS. And within DHS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is the law enforcement agency tasked with identifying, apprehending, and removing aliens from the United States. The following is excerpts from Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s Opinion in ruling on Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012):

“Congress has specified which aliens may be removed from the United States and the procedures for doing so. Aliens may be removed if they were inadmissible at the time of entry, have been convicted of certain crimes, or meet other criteria set by federal law. See §1227. Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. See Brief for Former Commissioners of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service as Amici Curiae 8–13. Federal officials, as an initial matter, must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all. If removal proceedings commence, aliens may seek asylum and other discretionary relief allowing them to remain in the country or at least to leave without formal removal. See §1229a(c)(4); see also, e.g., §§1158 (asylum), 1229b (cancellation of removal), 1229c (voluntary departure).

Discretion in the enforcement of immigration law embraces immediate human concerns. Unauthorized workers trying to support their families, for example, likely pose less danger than alien smugglers or aliens who commit a serious crime. The equities of an individual case may turn on many factors, including whether the alien has children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service. Some discretionary decisions involve policy choices that bear on this Nation’s international relations. Returning an alien to his own country may be deemed inappropriate even where he has committed a removable offense or fails to meet the criteria for admission. The foreign state may be mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alien or his family will be harmed upon return. The dynamic nature of relations with other countries requires the Executive Branch to ensure that enforcement policies are consistent with this Nation’s foreign policy with respect to these and other realities.”

As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States. [emphasis added] See INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U. S. 1032, 1038 (1984). If the police stop someone based on nothing more than possible removability, the usual predicate for an arrest is absent. When an alien is suspected of being removable, a federal official issues an administrative document called a Notice to Appear. See 8 U. S. C. §1229(a); 8 CFR §239.1(a) (2012). The form does not authorize an arrest. Instead, it gives the alien information about the proceedings, including the time and date of the removal hearing. See 8 U. S. C. §1229(a)(1). If an alien fails to appear, an in absentia order may direct removal. §1229a(5)(A).”

“Immigration policy shapes the destiny of the Nation. On May 24, 2012, at one of this Nation’s most distinguished museums of history, a dozen immigrants stood before the tattered flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem. There they took the oath to become American citizens. The Smithsonian, News Release, Smithsonian Citizenship Ceremony Welcomes a Dozen New Americans (May 24, 2012), online at These naturalization ceremonies bring together men and women of different origins who now share a common destiny. They swear a common oath to renounce fidelity to foreign princes, to defend the Constitution, and to bear arms on behalf of the country when required by law. 8 CFR §337.1(a) (2012). The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents, and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here.

The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration. With power comes responsibility, and the sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the Nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse.”

~United States Supreme Court Justice Kennedy (Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012))

One thing is clear — The job of your sheriff is to protect and serve the people living, working, and playing in Washington County. It is for federal officers to investigate and act within their broad discretion and complex world affairs policies on matters of immigration status and removability.

1 Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 398 (2012)
2 id. at 394
3 United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 561 n.3 (1995) (internal quotation omitted)

Thank you for reading,
Red Wortham
Red Wortham Red Wortham for Sheriff
PO Box 1623
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123
(503) 987-0220
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