Portland will protect immigrants despite Trump threats

Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler says city won't "backtrack on fundamental values"

This Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo shows the "Portland, Oregon" sign in downtown Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
This Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 photo shows the "Portland, Oregon" sign in downtown Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s next mayor is ready to defy our next president. Ted Wheeler says Portland will continue to act as a sanctuary city for undocumented people, despite threats by President-elect Donald Trump to withhold federal funds from cities that refuse to detain undocumented men, women and children.

Although Portland does not have an official ordinance declaring it a sanctuary city, it assumes the same role under state law and a district court ruling.

“We have immigration attorneys looking at the statute and if we need to strengthen it we will,” Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler told KOIN 6 News. “I don’t think our community values are up for debate and I don’t think we are going to be intimidated by the threat of withdrawal of federal funds to backtrack on fundamental values.”

Wheeler said Trump’s victory has exposed preexisting racist, sexist and anti-immigration sentiments around the nation, and that now is the time to address them.

“We want to make sure women, people of color, people who come from other countries feel safe and welcome in this community,” Wheeler said. “That’s priceless.”

During his campaign, Trump gave a speech in which he promised to “end the sanctuary cities” and said those “that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.” He blamed such policies for “so many needless deaths.”

It’s unclear what federal funding Trump could pull from cities that don’t comply. Congress could only impose conditions on federal dollars heading to the states if they relate to the funding’s purpose, the U.S. Supreme Court has said.

“If the funding is for improving childhood education, it’s hard to say that’s reasonably related to local law-enforcement cooperation with deportations,” University of Washington law school professor Mary Fan said.

Seattle, New York City and San Francisco have also vowed to protect immigrants.

“These cities have reaffirmed they’re going to respect the dignity of all their residents,” Matt Adams, legal director at the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said. “What they’re saying is, ‘We’re not going to use our resources to separate families, to deport children, to tear communities apart.’”

The Associated Press contributed to this report