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Law enforcement to hold immigration forum

Jackson County's law enforcement community is holding a public meeting Thursday to encourage everyone to use police and court services, regardless of their immigration status.

The meet-and-greet forum is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. June 29 at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

"There's a lot of misinformation about what local authorities can and can't do regarding illegal immigration," said Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler. "We want to make sure everyone in the community feels comfortable calling the police. We don't want people to think they can't call us if they are victims of a crime or witness a crime because they're afraid we'll inquire about their immigration status. My goal is to let everyone know we want a safe community and want people to call us when they see stuff going on."

Sickler said he also wants to get the message out to criminals that they can't target immigrants with impunity.

"We don't want them to victimize people because people are afraid to report a crime," he said.

Representatives from the sheriff's office, the Jackson County District Attorney's Office and Jackson County Circuit Court will attend the meeting to answer questions about the criminal justice system.

Sickler said Oregon law bans police agencies from holding people solely for immigration issues.

The sheriff's office, which runs the Jackson County Jail, can hold a criminal for an illegal immigration issue only if there is a warrant for the person's arrest or detention signed by a judge, Sickler said.

People convicted of certain serious crimes can face deportation — a consequence that existed under former President Barrack Obama and remains in place under President Donald Trump's administration.

Some people are reporting increased concern among immigrant communities because of Trump's vows to crack down on illegal immigration.

Media reports about immigrants being detained in and around courthouses in Oregon have caused alarm among immigrant communities and advocates.

Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert said victims and witnesses — regardless of their immigration status — need to be able to appear in court and use legal services without fear.

Jackson County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Timothy Gerking added that for both criminal and civil matters, courthouses need to be safe and secure locations — whether someone is there to appear as a witness, contest an eviction, seek a restraining order or use other court services.

Sickler said representatives of the criminal justice system agreed to take part in the meeting after being approached by the groups UNETE, SO Health-E, Unite Oregon and the Racial Equity Coalition. The forum is being hosted by the advocacy groups.

Food and child care will be provided. For more information or to RSVP for child care, call 541-774-3837.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Nathan Sickler
Beth Heckert