Oregon Petition to Repeal Sanctuary State Status for Undocumented Immigrants Gets 105,000 Signatures

People protest the introduction of mass immigration hearings in California handled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has also been refused information by local authorities in Oregon due to sanctuary status. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A petition calling for a ballot measure that would seek to repeal Oregon's status as a sanctuary state has 105,000 signatures and was submitted on Thursday to Oregon's Secretary of State.

The chief petitioners are three Republican representatives who want to enforce a federal law specifically concerning undocumented immigrants. Before being added to the ballot, the law requires at least 88,814 of those 105,000 signatures to be verified. If verified, the petition—which is accepting signatures until 5 p.m. on Friday—will allow residents of Oregon to vote on the repeal. There was no information on the verification deadline.

"I'm doing this as a citizen. I'm not acting in my capacity as a state representative," chief petitioner and representative of Independence Mike Nearman told Newsweek. "Law enforcement hides behind this law [the sanctuary status] to not cooperate with federal authorities on illegal immigration."

On Friday morning, Nearman told Newsweek that people were still asking to sign the petition. The petition was also made available in a printable form for residents across the country to sign and mail. It was shared on Facebook by supporters of the platform, linking to the site of a group called Stop Oregon Sanctuaries.

"It's not really about immigration, it's about local government and cooperating with federal authority. This initiative itself has to do with criminal illegal aliens. I think by definition they pose a danger to the community," said Nearman.

For second chief petitioner and representative Sal Esquivel of Medford, one of the bigger immigration issues is health care. Esquivel said that undocumented immigrants are "on health care," adding: "I resent that very much, especially when we have situations with veterans that are homeless." OregonLawHelp.org said medical assistance is available as a public benefit, among other services, to help immigrants who have not yet applied for Legal Permanent Residency cards with their green card.

Half Mexican, Esquivel said the petition did not concern documented immigration. He cited his personal experience having an immigrant father, who he said "wanted to be an American. It took him 14 years; he assimilated himself and opened three restaurants."

Esquivel also admitted "passing the repeal won't necessarily mean they [the counties] are going to cooperate." Nearman also expected variable degrees of cooperation.

Oregon is one of seven states with sanctuary status, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Thirty-two counties in the state also hold sanctuary status, which would be overturned if the repeal were to pass later this year.

Sanctuary status means laws are in place that the CIS website said, "prohibit agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.