October 13, 2022
Elisabeth Shepard, Communications Director
DA Mike Schmidt, community stakeholders announce immigration reform policy
PORTLAND, Oregon – Today, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and community stakeholders announced an immigration reform policy enacted by the DA’s office that promises sweeping reforms.
The policy was developed during a year-long process that engaged prosecutors with immigration attorneys, practitioners, defense attorneys, academics, and community advocates in a first-of-its-kind collaborative policy development in the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
“Prior to these reforms, non-citizens accused of a crime could be sent back to their country of origin and given a lifelong ban from reentry for non-violent offenses, where a naturalized US citizen charged with the same crime may only receive a few months probation sentence from a judge,” DA Mike Schmidt stated.
“In this circumstance, deportation does absolutely nothing to make us more safe. Instead, it has the potential to break up families, compromise household incomes, and propagate generational inequity. These outcomes make us less safe,” DA Schmidt continued.
Among the reforms the policy offers is ensuring that Deputy District Attorneys explicitly consider immigration consequences at all phases of a criminal prosecution, including charging, plea bargaining and sentencing, in order to obtain an immigration-neutral case resolution wherever possible. This will not provide non-citizens with more lenient sentences, but instead avoids the imposition of the additional consequence of deportation when consistent with public safety and the safety of the victim.
“We think prosecutors should be engaged with the real-world impact of their decisions, including how they affect someone’s immigration status,” said Erin McKee, Co-Director, Immigrant Rights Project, Oregon Justice Resource Center. “In our work providing defense attorneys across Oregon with immigration legal advice for their client’s cases, we sometimes hear that a prosecutor doesn’t want to know anything about the client’s immigration situation, let alone consider an immigration-safer plea. That’s not in the interest of justice. We’re heartened to see Multnomah County taking a different approach and urge other counties to follow their example.”
It affirms that the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will not provide information to ICE for the purposes of immigration enforcement without a court order requiring the office to do so, and will not otherwise cooperate with ICE in any investigation or enforcement of Federal immigration law. This responds to frequent concerns among crime victims or witnesses who are also immigrants in reporting crime and participating in criminal investigations and sends a message that all members of our community deserve to pursue justice.
Tony Defalco, Executive Director of Latino Network, stated, “If the punishment for a crime for one person is a fine or community service and for another person it is separation from their family, then we are not promoting justice and we are not serving our community by keeping Oregon families together. This important step by the District Attorney’s office ensures that we are one step closer to true equitable justice in Multnomah County and hopefully we can see other counties in Oregon adopt similar policies as well.”