Oregon DA announces immigration reform policy to balance deportation risk when prosecuting cases

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The top prosecutor in Oregon’s most populous county announced an immigration reform policy Thursday in an effort to protect non-citizens from being deported if they are charged with a crime.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said the new policy will balance the rights of American citizens and those living in the country illegally. It directs deputy district attorneys to consider immigration consequences in all phases of a prosecution, including when making charging decisions, plea bargaining and sentencing.

It also allows for punishments to be restructured so that they don’t result in deportation, as long as the changes don’t reduce the severity of the sentence.

“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 re-entry for non-violent offenses, where a naturalized U.S. citizen charged with the exact same crime may only receive a few months probation,” District Attorney Mike Schmidt said during a news conference. 

VENEZUELAN MIGRANTS SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT THEY WILL BE RETURNED TO MEXICO UNDER NEW BIDEN ADMIN POLICY

Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County district attorney, speaks to the media on Aug. 30, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.

Mike Schmidt, Multnomah County district attorney, speaks to the media on Aug. 30, 2020, in Portland, Oregon.
(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

He said deportation doesn’t make the community safe but instead breaks up families, threatens the local economy and further propagates generational inequities.

“These outcomes makes us less safe,” he said. 

As an example, advocates used a hypothetical case of a barroom fight. Those involved could be charged with attempted assault, a minor misdemeanor could result in six months in jail but is often resolved with a fine, said Erin McKee, the co-director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center’s Immigrant Rights Project. 

However, the incident could be considered a crime of “moral turpitude” by immigration officials and someone with a green card could face deportation, she said. 

PORTLAND’S VIOLENT CRIME JUMP OUTPACED US, FBI DATA SHOWS

“It would be better for him to plead to a different B misdemeanor, like harassment, or even to plead to a more serious offense,” she said. “This new policy requires the prosecutor to consider the immigration consequences and provides guidance for structuring an immigration-safer outcome.”

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Under the policy, prosecutors are barred from using a person’s immigration status when negotiating plea deals or mentioning it in open court unless legally necessary, the Oregonian reported.

Fox News has reached out to the DA’s office.

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