Lawsuit Victory is a Win for Rural Oregon

We are thrilled to share the exciting news that we won our lawsuit against the City of Cottage Grove for breaking the law by illegally collaborating with multi-billion dollar federal immigration agencies! ROP and Community Alliance for Lane County filed the lawsuit last year after years of community organizing to pressure the City of Cottage Grove and the Cottage Grove Police Department to treat everyone in the community with dignity and respect.

We could not be more pleased that the City agreed that they were breaking the law and worked with us to change their policing policies and their staff training procedures! Read on for more details in today’s press release (and, please, share it with your local newspapers, radio stations, and other media!), learn more about the Sanctuary Promise Act, and keep an eye out for a longer ROPnet next week with more information and resources for community leaders and human dignity groups to take action for migrant and refugee rights in their communities!

For Immediate Release: January 25th, 2024

CONTACT: Sam Corti, Rural Organizing Project Communication Coordinator, sam@rop.org, 541-799-4198

FOR BACKGROUND: David Henretty, Oregon Law Center, dhenretty@oregonlawcenter.org, 503-473-8684

Lawsuit To End Illegal Collaboration Of City Of Cottage Grove And Police With Federal Immigration Agencies Concludes In Victory For Immigrants And Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act

After a nearly year-long lawsuit brought by two Lane County community organizations, the Circuit Court of Lane County entered a judgment that the City of Cottage Grove may no longer illegally collaborate with federal immigration agencies and cannot violate Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act (SPA). 

Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise Act is one of the strongest laws in the nation to protect all members of our community, and the recent court order strengthens the law by prohibiting future violations.

Rural Organizing Project (ROP) and Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) applauded the result as they came to an agreement with the City of Cottage Grove on a court order that ensures the provisions of the SPA will be upheld. The lawsuit concluded on Wednesday, January 24th after the city admitted that the Cottage Grove Police Department’s former policies, practices, and customs broke the law. The City of Cottage Grove and the Cottage Grove Police Department have since rewritten their law enforcement policy relating to immigration and interacting with federal immigration officials so that it follows state laws.

Under the court order, the police department must stop all prohibited collaboration with federal immigration enforcement agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also states that the department must train city employees, including members of the police department, on how to use the new policy. The revised policy is a good-faith effort to increase the effectiveness of the department in protecting and serving the entire community and recognizing the dignity of all persons, regardless of their national origin or immigration status.

“This is a victory for community safety, dignity, and building trust with local law enforcement,” said Jess Campbell, Executive Director of ROP. 

Campbell acknowledged a recent transformation of the Cottage Grove Police Department in the wake of the lawsuit, citing new leadership, new officers, and a new attitude toward upholding the Sanctuary Promise Act. She urged other communities to review their local policies, engage in conversations with their local law enforcement, and report violations to ROP.

“We believe Cottage Grove’s policies concerning how the local police interact with federal immigration enforcement authorities are now consistent with the SPA,” said Amy Scott of the Oregon Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs. 

The Oregon Legislature passed the Sanctuary Promise Act in 2021, thanks to the hard work of community leaders, including rural human dignity groups and allied organizations. The law expanded upon Oregon’s 1987 Sanctuary Law so that no government or law enforcement agency can assist federal immigration enforcement without a warrant from a federal judge. 

CALC, who was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, echoes the call for other communities to review their local and county policies about the Sanctuary Promise Act and adopt similar changes to Cottage Grove’s policy. 

ROP and CALC decided to bring this lawsuit when long-time residents of Cottage Grove raised concerns over increasing police harassment of immigrants and violations of the SPA. ROP, which is headquartered in Cottage Grove, asserted that these practices eroded community trust in police, tore families apart, and illegally diverted local resources to assist federal officials when those resources could be used in Cottage Grove for improving local services and infrastructure.

“We want to underscore the importance of reviewing county and city policing policies when it comes to immigration and asking sheriffs and police chiefs to explain how they are following the Sanctuary Promise Act,” said ROP’s Campbell. “In Cottage Grove, once we filed the lawsuit, immigrant families we work with reported a noticeable change, including less fear as people went about their daily lives and fewer incidents of police harassment.”

More information and resources available to families impacted by detention and deportation can be found at www.rop.org. If you or someone you know was targeted in violation of Oregon’s Sanctuary Promise laws, please call 503-543-8417 or email us at office@rop.org.

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