Tag Archives: ICE

Local enforcement of fed’s immigration law weakens public safety

by Cassandra Villanueva, Contributing Columnist

A hairline crack in the windshield of my sister’s car turned our family’s world upside down in 2010. On their way home from the store to celebrate my nephew’s birthday, my sister was stopped by police two blocks from home. In the passenger seat was her husband with a birthday cake in his lap and three of their children were in the backseat.

For years, they had lived cautiously in the shadows and practiced what they would do if they were pulled over or stopped by the police. They talked about how they would know their rights, remain silent, and not answer any questions about immigration status. But all that rehearsal was useless when the police threatened to detain my sister and kids as well for not answering about my brother-in-law’s immigration status.  Out of fear for harm against his family, he admitted he was undocumented and the police dragged him out of the car and took him away. Continue reading

Local immigrant rights advocates seek protections against ‘Arizonafication’


Staff reports

Human rights activists are campaigning to make sure Multnomah County doesn’t go the way of some parts of the country where “Arizona-style” policies have damaged immigrant trust in the community.

Portland Jobs with Justice, which comprises several immigrant and labor justice groups, along with Voz Workers’ Rights Education project want local authorities to back up a resolution they passed months ago with stronger protections for immigrant residents.

“What we want is to continue the work we have done,” says Romeo Sosa, executive director of Voz, which works with day laborers. “We just don’t want the resolution on paper. We really want them to take more action.”

The Restoring Trust campaign, which seeks to regain trust between the immigrant communities and law enforcement, was spurred on by the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the Arizona immigration law. That decision struck down much of the law, but upheld the requirement that state law enforcement officers determine the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest, if they suspect that person is in the country illegally.

Nationally, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has implemented a program of detainment called Security Communities, which requests that local law enforcement officers detain people they arrest for 48 hours longer than required in order for ICE officials to determine their status. It’s a practice that immigrant rights advocates say leads to racial profiling and mistrust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.

In March, the Multnomah County Commissioners passed a resolution in an attempt to put some oversight into the federal program.

“The Board of County Commissioners shares the public’s deep concern regarding issues raised by ICE’s mandatory implementation of the Secure Communities Program in County jails, including but not limited to, the erosion of public trust and public safety and the current and potential impact it may have on the County’s General Fund,” states the resolution, which is non-binding.

The resolution asks that ICE’s local operatives exercise “prosecutorial discretion” and communicate with the region on how it plans to fund, train and implement its tracking and evaluation methods.

The resolution also asks for information on the people from the region being deported, including the number of minors that have been deported or are in the process of removal, U.S.-born minors whose parents have been deported or are in the process of being deported. The county also wants to know how many men and women with child dependents that have been deported or are in the process, and how many families have been separated as a result of deportation.

On July 11, as part of a national week of action, representatives from VOZ and Jobs with Justice addressed the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners with examples Multnomah County can follow. They cite the TRUST Act, passed in California earlier this month, which requires police to release individuals who have posted bail, provided they do not face serious charges and have no serious prior convictions — regardless of federal detainer requests. The Restoring Trust campaign also heralds similar efforts in Cook County, Ill., Santa Clara, Calif., the state of Connecticut and Washington, D.C., that have approved legislation that sets standards for responding to ICE hold requests to protect against racial profiling.

However, other states, such as Georgia, have followed Arizona’s lead by enacting harsher policies on the treatment of immigrants.

Advocates say that in addition to racial profiling and civil rights violations, ICE holds also inadvertently lead to the removal of victims and witnesses, the detention of U.S. citizens, and serious economic burdens on local law enforcement agencies who foot the cost for longer incarceration periods.

The Restore Truth campaign also claims that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from “commandeering” state and local resources for federal objectives, prevents the federal government from mandating state or local compliance with ICE holds.

Lt. Steve Alexander with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department says officers have changed nothing in their practice of holding detainees since the Secure Communities come into operation several years ago.

“We have not changed our procedures here (regarding Security Communities) at this time,” Alexander says. “ICE has a separate process. We don’t notify anybody.”

The nearest ICE detention facility is in Tacoma, Wash., but ICE does manage a short-terms holding facility in Portland, which sends detainees to Tacoma.

Check out the Restoring Trust Campaign here. 

How Immigration and Customs Enforcement has co-opted local law enforcement to find their targets for them

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

It was the unusual number of calls that led the Portland Human Rights Commission to check out Secure Communities. The calls were coming from members of the immigrant community who were concerned about the increase in deportations, and asking for help for family members who had been stopped by police and ended up being deported, said Maria Lisa Johnson, director of the Portland Human Rights Commission.

The calls initiated research by the Human Rights Commission on the local police involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. This past spring, the commission began a process involving the Portland Police Bureau, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, the American Civil Liberties Union, and an array of immigrant and cultural organizations, all to determine how local police interact with the federal immigration agents. The commission released its report in December.

Secure Communities, or S-Comm, as its critics call it, is an information-sharing program of ICE that collects fingerprint information from immigrants arrested and held in local jails, regardless of charges or convictions. The fingerprints are then entered into the Department of Homeland Security databases. If there is a match and the person is identified as illegally in the United States, ICE can request that the local jailer detain that person for up to 48 hours while it considers enforcement action, including deportation.

In the mere 10 months it’s been enforced in the Portland metro area, the program has drummed up a host of human rights concerns, including fostering a bias against immigrants, undermining community policing, and turning local jails into immigration extension offices. The program and ICE are also criticized nationally for claiming that Secure Communities is about deporting serious criminals, when many of those deported had only minor criminal records, such as traffic violations, or none at all.

“There is an absolute fear,” Johnson said. “As an undocumented individual whose family relies on your income to be able to succeed, then you’re pulled out of that community. That’s a huge fear and risk.” Continue reading

Two years after the Del Monte raids


Published in the May 1 edition of Street Roots

Now, when they talk about it, Zaida Villatoro and the other women refer to it simply as “La Redada,” The Raid: an event that stands between one life and another.   A few of them have made it their business to talk about it, to share their stories with those willing to hear.

June 12, 2007 was another cold day in the plant — cold and damp.  Villatoro was cutting fruit at the Del Monte Fresh Produce food processing center in North Portland. She’d been handling vegetables for several weeks, chopping them for salads to be sold in plastic boxes, but when fruit season came she was reassigned.

She heard a co-worker yell, “Run, run! La migra!”  Agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were raiding the premises.

Everyone fled, Villatoro says, and it was chaos. She saw people climbing on piles of crates, and others racing out the back door. About eight scrambled up and hid near the ceiling. She thinks they stayed until dark and somehow snuck out. One woman climbed high and fell, and an ambulance took her away.

The workers were herded through a hallway and onto a platform where ICE agents took their names and searched them — their hair, clothes, everything.

“I wanted to run to the bathroom and vomit,” Villatoro says, “I was so afraid.”

Continue reading