By Aaron West

The Bulletin

A request that Prineville city councilors declare the city open to anyone, regardless of immigration status or gender identity, raised doubts last week about whether a majority of Prineville residents would approve.

The Human Dignity Advocates of Crook County, which promotes social justice and equality, brought a draft resolution recently to Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe and City Manager Steve Forrester that states the city council is committed to opposing hate and bias.

But Roppe said she didn’t think a majority of residents in Prineville — a conservative rural city of about 9,200 people — would be on board with such an inclusive statement.

“We know our community pretty well, and we know there are some people here — I bet at least 60 percent of our citizens — who would say that if people want to come to the U.S., then they should take the route of legal entry, not illegal entry,” Roppe said. “We’re here to represent the majority of our citizens.”

Even if councilors were to vote on such a resolution in the future, the city attorney would write it and it wouldn’t be considered in its current form, she said.

Immigration wasn’t the only area of potential local concern in the draft resolution, Roppe said. There is also mention of the city welcoming people regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation and faith — all issues a majority of Prineville residents might not be comfortable with, Roppe said.

“There are some people in our community who would have difficulty accepting those parts of the statement, too,” she said. “I think our community would be divided on it.”

So instead of voting on whether to adopt the resolution, councilors held a workshop Tuesday to educate Prineville residents and officials about local law enforcement policy on immigration enforcement.

During the workshop, Crook County Sheriff John Gautney and Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins explained how their respective agencies handle immigration enforcement. Both agencies simply follow state law, which states that local authorities can’t use money or personnel on federal immigration enforcement, Cummins said.

Gautney said that if a person gets booked into jail and doesn’t have citizenship, then the Crook County Sheriff’s Office will notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which would have to send federal agents to detain them.

“If we have a person who is a foreign-born national who has committed a local crime, then we will investigate the crime,” Gautney said. “If that person gets arrested and brought to the jail, then we have to notify ICE that we have a foreign-national born person in custody. That’s part of the law.”

Whether or not the council will vote on the draft resolution hasn’t been decided, Roppe said, but she’s certain about one thing: more education is needed first.

“We told (Human Dignity Advocates) that we wouldn’t bring it up before having an education process, and invite citizens,” Roppe said. “We haven’t done that yet, and I’m not sure we will. To be honest with you, I think even if we had an education process and tried to get a majority of the citizens to approve of the resolution, I don’t think it would pass. I don’t know that for a fact, but probably.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,