Non-violent immigrants will be let out of jail

(AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Monday marks the day Multnomah County is set to begin releasing people who entered the U.S. illegally and are jailed in Portland on other, minor crimes.

The goal, the sheriff tells KOIN 6 News, is to free up jail space for more violent criminals. The move also is expected to save the county thousands.

Until now the jail held immigrants for 48 hours while federal immigration agents decide whether to send them to its Pacific Northwest detention center in Tacoma, Wash. Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton said this process takes beds away from other inmates — inmates the sheriff would rather keep in jail.

“I’m releasing people who commit burglaries; I’m releasing people that are stealing vehicles,” Staton said. “…And I need to put a stop to it.”

The sheriff told KOIN 6 News there will be no mass releases of illegal immigrants. He said they will be released “as needed.”

Immigrant rights groups have said holding immigrants in jail for the feds breaks down trust between local law enforcement and the growing Latino community.

“It’s not the responsibility of local law enforcement to do the job of the federal government,” said Francisco Lopez, executive director of the immigrant rights group CAUSA. “In this case, [that’s] enforcement of immigration laws.”

Multnomah County is the first in Oregon to do this, but other jurisdictions are considering it as well.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — or ICE — reports that  “ICE will continue to work with local partners to keep criminal aliens off the street.”

The sheriff’s office tells KOIN 6 News that 58 Mulnomah County jail inmates each month are placed on “ICE holds.” The new policy, according to the sheriff’s office reports, will only be letting three or four of those per month go home.

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