Portland, OR - Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies were investigated by their own agency for cooperating with ICE agents and officials.
Public outrage is growing over the incident, with some calling the investigation "over the top" and "unlawful", according to Fox News.
Critics say that the agency's decision to investigate it's own deputies sets a dangerous precedent and further increases the tension between 'sanctuary' jurisdictions and the federal government.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese reportedly created a new policy for his deputies on dealing with illegal immigrants, which he had previously notified them of by an internal memo, according to The Oregonian.
In the memo, Sheriff Reese told "all staff to not release any more information than is given to the general public or provide special access to immigration authorities if contacted by them."
The memo also said that any requests for more information or access should be routed to the sheriff's records division.
One incident where a deputy was under investigation began in December, 2016, after Julio Montejo-Mex met with Deputy Larry Wenzel for a required weekly meeting as a condition to meet a pre-trial condition for release.
Montejo-Mex had been charged with several domestic violence crimes including assault, strangulation, and kidnapping. He was arrested by ICE officers when he arrived for the meeting, which was held at the Multnomah County Jail.
Another incident occurred in July, 2016, when Deputy Keith Fisher sent the address and conditions of release for defendant Ventura Machiccotoc in an email to an ICE agent.
Deputy Fisher also told the ICE agent that Machiccotoc was wearing a GPS monitoring device, and that he could look him up if needed.
An investigation was then launched against Deputy Wenzel and two other deputies who also allegedly cooperated with ICE officers.
In a press release on Friday, the agency cleared the deputies, and said that "they were unclear on what the proper protocol was at the time."
It said that the deputies were following instructions from previous Sheriff Dan Staton.
Now that the deputies are aware of the policy change, they are presumably subject to discipline if they cooperate with ICE again.
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that deputies were only "following the law."
Mehlman said, "Under federal law, these officers have every right to cooperate with federal enforcement officers."
"It is the Multnomah County Sheriff’s department that is out of compliance. Federal law takes precedence over any local sanctuary policies that may be in place in Multnomah County or Portland. Thus, any disciplinary taken against these deputies would violate federal law and the rights of the officers in question."
Multnomah county and Portland officials said they are committed to remaining sanctuary jurisdictions for undocumented immigrants.
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese made news in August for ordering the removal of an American Blue Line flag from an employee breakroom after it was deemed "offensive."
The flag came from Police Memorial Week held annually in Washington, D.C. It has great significance because it stands for all fallen police officers, according to the Willamette Valley Lodge 7.
They said that it "represents all of the sacrifices that law enforcement has made, and our brothers and sisters who have laid down their lives."
The flag hung at at unknown date by an unknown person in the corrections officers' breakroom at the Multnomah County Courthouse. That breakroom is for employees' use only, and public access is not allowed. Its current location, and who took it down is also unknown.
Sheriff Reese ordered the flag be removed because it was "offensive," according to Oregon Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. The Lodge said that it had received complaints from its members about the flag being removed.
In its August 23 message, the FOP said, "Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese recently ordered that this Law Enforcement Memorial Flag be removed from an employee breakroom because it was offensive. The Sheriff's actions have since sparked outrage, with many finding his conduct offensive."