Multnomah DA will give non-citizens a chance at justice without fear of deportation

Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 6:05 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Multnomah County District Attorney, Mike Schmidt, announced Thursday a policy change when it comes to prosecuting non- U.S. citizens charged with a crime.

According to Schmidt, the policy change will essentially take the risk of deportation off the table as a consequence for a non-citizen that’s been charged with a crime. He is directing all of his deputy district attorneys to now explicitly consider immigration consequences at all stages of a prosecution. For instance, before this policy change, a green card holder that’s convicted of a crime could have more consequences under federal immigration beyond the county and state level. Schmidt said his office was already practicing something similar, but now this policy change puts all prosecutors on the same page.

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“Before this, did not have a cohesive policy on what they should be doing, and this kind of policy uniformly makes them aware of how they handled that situation,” Schmidt said. “They can refer to the policy and talk to their senior deputy district attorneys uniformly so we’re treating everybody the same.”

The new also policy directs prosecutors to not work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Unless there’s a court order, his office will not cooperate with any federal investigation that uses current immigrant laws.

Co-director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center’s Immigrant Rights Project, Erin McKee welcomes this move by the district attorney’s office.

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“This will require them to consider the immigration consequences and to look at a person as a whole being,” McKee said.

Over her career, she’s represented many clients whose immigration status has prohibited them from receiving, what she sees, as proper justice under the law. One of those clients has stuck with her, throughout her career.

“He wanted to be naturalized to become a U.S. citizen but he had a criminal history that made him deportable.,” McKee said.

McKee said her client came to America as a refugee and pleaded guilty to a deportable offense as a minor. He is now a citizen but McKee said it was a long road there. So she’s hoping the policy she helped write will positively impact other non-citizens who might be afraid of deportation. McKee hopes other Oregon district attorneys will take notice.

“We’re excited to see this get off the ground and we’re excited for this to be a model for other counties,” McKee said.

A spokesperson for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office said they’re currently training each department on the policy change. She said the training will likely finish in early winter and then the policy will fully be in effect.