PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Weeks after a San Francisco woman was murdered by an undocumented immigrant who had recently been released from jail, some federal lawmakers said they want to block funding to local governments that protect illegal immigrants.
“Suddenly, a shot rang out. Kate fell and looked at me and said ‘help me dad,'” Jim Steinle, whose daughter Kathryn was murdered on Pier 14, said. “Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter.”
Kathryn’s murder garnered national attention after it was revealed the suspect was released from jail shortly before the shooting. But he was an undocumented immigrant, and some say the sheriff’s department should have held him for federal authorities.
Unlike San Francisco, Portland is not a ‘sanctuary city’ — a place where undocumented immigrants are not turned over to federal authorities for deportation.
But some Portlanders said they want to change that, and it could mean less funding for our local government.
“I think it’s an attack against immigrants,” Romeo Sosa, executive director of Workers’ Rights Education Project, said. “We’re working to make Portland a sanctuary city.”
Lawmakers in Washington D.C. from both the House and the Senate have introduced bills that would strip sanctuary cities of federal funding if they continue to ignore immigration law.
“What happened in San Francisco, it’s just one person, not all immigrants,” Sosa said.
There are currently no ordinances or rules protecting undocumented immigrants in the City of Portland. Mayor Charlie Hales’ spokesperson said they aren’t worried about losing funding.
However, last year Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office stopped complying with federal immigration holds for low-level offenders in county jails. Because they chose to release those offenders, there is a possibility they could lose funding if the bill passes.
“I don’t think it is going to make it through the federal level,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer said.
Blumenauer, who is against the bill, said stopping federal immigration holds has not been a problem for the community.
“It would be unfortunate to punish communities across the country that are trying to deal meaningfully with the immigration population,” he said.
KOIN 6 News reached out to several federal lawmakers to ask where they stand on the issue. Republican Congressman Greg Walden said he supports the bill.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he opposes it.
“The last thing our country’s broken immigration system needs is a piecemeal approach that makes things worse, especially in reaction to systemic failures that have led to heart-wrenching tragedies,” Senator Wyden said. “Comprehensive immigration reform is badly needed and will require Congress to consider every piece of this complex puzzle.”