Oregon county sheriffs are taking a stand in support of ballot Measure 105, which would repeal the state’s illegal immigrant sanctuary statute.

Last week, Clatsop County Sheriff Thomas Bergin sent a letter stating he supports the repeal of the law, which forbids state agencies, including law enforcement, from using state resources or personnel to arrest people whose only crime is that of violating federal immigration law, because he said it “undermines respect for law in significant ways.”

Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen was among the 16 sheriffs across Oregon to add his signature to the letter.

“Being squeezed between state and federal law is uncomfortable for us as Oregon sheriffs,” Rasmussen wrote in a press release to The Observer. “Our job is to enforce the law as promulgated under the wisdom of a duly elected state legislature. It is largely due to the frustration of having been placed in an impossible situation that I felt it necessary to come out in public support of Measure 105.”

Rasmussen explained the “federal government has put local government across the country on notice that failure to communicate the presence of illegal aliens in their local jail could result in the suspension of all federal grant monies going to that local jurisdiction.”

However, law enforcement is unable to do so because of Oregon’s sanctuary laws. Rasmussen said in his press release the sheriff’s office has reached out to legal counsel who said even calling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to notify the agency of a suspected illegal immigrant in the Union County Jail would be a violation of the law, as doing so would be “assisting in the apprehension of illegal aliens.”

The passage of Measure 105 “would allow us to comply with federal law, allow Union County to continue to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars under federal grant programs and still protect the legitimate rights and privacy of all persons within our jurisdiction, including those whose presence in the country is undocumented,” he wrote in the press release.

Baker County Sheriff Travis Ash’s name is absent from the list of names on Bergin’s letter, however. In a statement from the sheriff, he said he “fully supported” the measure but did not agree with using Mollie Tibbetts’ family’s personal tragedy for political purposes.

Tibbetts was a 20-year-old college student in Iowa who was killed by an illegal immigrant while she was running.

In the letter signed by the sheriffs, it said: “Mollie Tibbetts’ recent murder refocused attention on the violence and heartbreak illegal immigrant criminals can visit on Americans and their families.”

The letter continued by quoting Agnes Gibbony, who, according to the letter, had a son who was killed by an illegal immigrant.

“Tibbetts’ killer was here because our government neglected its responsibility to keep him out,” the letter said. “Oregon’s sanctuary statute not only compounds that neglect but issues a de facto invitation to illegal immigrants to settle in our state.”

Ash said if Measure 105 passes, it will not change the way his department runs.

See more in Monday's edition of The Observer.

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