Multnomah County District Attorney to weigh risk of deportation while prosecuting cases

Prosecutors will now pursue cases with an “immigration neutral” mindset designed to protect non-citizens from deportation if they are charged with a crime or are called to court as a victim or witness, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Thursday.

While Oregon’s sanctuary laws have banned government employees from enforcing federal immigration law since 1987, the new rules are intended to make it harder for the feds to find and deport undocumented immigrants.

Across the nation, authorities with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been known to detain non-citizens as they come and go from courthouses.

The new policy orders deputy district attorneys to explicitly consider whether criminal charges will jeopardize an immigrant at every stage of the case, including while making charging decisions, striking plea deals and during sentencing.

Schmidt said the new policy also allows for potential punishments to be restructured so they do not end in deportation, as long as the changes don’t lessen the severity of the sentence.

Among the other changes included in the policy:

• Deputy district attorneys are now strictly forbidden from raising the specter of deportation while negotiating plea deals.

• The policy also instructs prosecutors not to mention a person’s immigration status in open court, unless doing so is legally necessary, such as to explain the motive of a crime or in the context of a witness’ credibility.

• Deputy district attorneys may allow a victim, witness or defendant to reschedule or skip out on a court date entirely if the non-citizen believes federal law enforcement are likely to be lying in wait outside the courthouse.

— Zane Sparling;; 503-319-7083; @pdxzane

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