By Becky Straus, Legislative Director

Following Monday’s Supreme Court decision in State v. Arizona, it is more important than ever that Oregonians are aware of and understand the long-standing legal protection in our state that ensures that Oregon will not become Arizona.

Section 2(b) of Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 requires Arizona police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that person is not in the country legally. While the Supreme Court decisively struck down the remainder of the unconstitutional and anti-immigrant provisions of Arizona’s law, it declined to strike down this “show me your papers” provision, sending the issue back to the lower courts to rule on whether the law could be interpreted narrowly enough to avoid constitutional violations. The Supreme Court’s decision not to immediately strike down this portion of S.B. 1070 is a dangerous mistake that immediately puts in jeopardy the rights of innocent individuals, as it is very likely that implementation of the law will result in racial profiling and prolonged detention of people in Arizona.

The situation here in Oregon is very different because for decades our lawmakers and police have prioritized public safety rather than scapegoating immigrants. On the books since 1987, ORS 181.850 prohibits state and local police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status unless the individual has been arrested for a crime under Oregon law. And, by the way, in most cases it is not a crime to be in this country without proper documentation. Thus, under Oregon law, only if the person has already been arrested can local law enforcement contact ICE (the federal immigration enforcement agency). Unlike what Arizona wants to do, Oregon police cannot require us to “show our papers” when we talk to them.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese recently noted the importance of Oregon laws and policies that prevent racial and ethnic profiling are extremely important for public safety.

“Our mission is to protect all people in our community and local enforcement of federal immigration laws can negatively impact our relationship with our community,” said Chief Reese. “We provide service to all who need our help and to ask about a person's federal immigration status has the potential to keep victims of crime from coming forward and asking for police help. Local enforcement of federal immigration laws can undermine the trust and cooperative relationships we try to build with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community policing.”

The ACLU of Oregon couldn’t agree more that ORS 181.850 is critical to ensuring that our limited public safety resources are used to protect our communities rather than to put our rights at risk. The law provides important safeguards to all Oregonians by ensuring that witnesses and victims of crime may report what they know without fear of government reprisal.

We are standing by our allies in Arizona who will continue to fight the destructive S.B. 1070 and the ACLU is committed to vigorously opposing any attempts to single out immigrants for racial and ethnic profiling here in Oregon and nationwide.

TAKE ACTION: Reject Racial Profiling 


Partial text of ORS 181.850

No law enforcement agency of the State of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state shall use 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 residing in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.