Legislature considers tweaks to laws to help immigrants

March 19, 2019

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon legislators heard testimony on a bill that would prohibit courts from asking defendants about their immigration status, a move advocates said would help encourage immigrants afraid of deportation to participate in the judicial system.

The Statesman Journal reports it’s one of a pair of bills advocates said would help apply Oregon’s laws equally to immigrants of various statuses who are experiencing unintended consequences in state courts.

House Bill 2932 would also require a defendant be informed on how a plea might impact their immigration status and give them more time for a plea decision afterward.

Lawyers who testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Monday said they don’t believe the question of immigration status is being posed maliciously, but it’s one that is having adverse consequences.

Studies have shown crimes such as domestic violence are becoming more difficult to prosecute because witnesses and victims are afraid to testify because of immigration-related consequences.

“This is a very appropriate and uncontroversial law that encourages people to show up for hearings,” said Kathy Brady, senior staff attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center based in San Francisco.

California has had this law for decades, Brady said.

Opponents, meanwhile, told lawmakers it was the latest in a string of irresponsible legislation that puts the rights of undocumented immigrants above Oregonians.

It would also make Oregonians less safe, they said.

“Oregon legislators, once again, are going out of their way to shield those that have entered our country illegally,” said Cynthia Kendoll, president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.