Tag Archives: Immigration

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. 

The ghosts of history: Recalling the Chinese Exclusion Act & the current immigration debate

by Robert Alford

Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 is the latest example in a long history of exclusionary immigration policy in the United States. The Arizona law attempted to permit police the right to detain anybody suspected of being in the country without authorization as well as making it a crime for immigrants not to carry legal residency documentation at all times. Those two parts of the law were blocked by a federal judge on July 28.

The law’s opponents claim that it is a gross violation of civil liberties, which will lead to racial profiling against the state’s Latino population, while its supporters claim that it is a necessary tool in stopping the rise of illegal immigration within the border state. The law is predicated upon the assumption that certain immigrant populations pose a threat to both the economy and the national identity within the United States.

These kinds of nativist sentiments have their direct historical antecedent in the Chinese Exclusion Laws of the 1800s, which effectively banned the immigration of all people of Chinese descent, and the Immigration Act of 1924, which established a quota system that favored Northern and Western European immigrants over Southern and Eastern Europeans and Asians.

The recently re-published novel, “Water Ghosts,” by author Shawna Yang Ryan, is set in the Chinese immigrant farming community of Locke, Calif., in 1928, during the aftermath of these repressive acts of legislation. One of the effects of these laws was to prevent Chinese women from joining their husbands who had previously emigrated to the United States. Denying married couples the ability to be together turned towns like Locke into communities of bachelors, populated almost entirely by men, with the exception of the white prostitutes who operated the town brothel. Ryan’s novel begins when three mysterious Chinese women arrive in Locke one day on a boat, floating through the mists of the Sacramento River. When one of these women turns out to be the wife of Richard Fong, the proprietor of the town’s gambling parlor, the mystery deepens, and the people of the town begin to suspect that these women may possess powers beyond the realm of understanding.

Ryan’s novel combines elements of myth and fantasy with historical realism in a style that is dreamlike and yet firmly grounded in the substance of history. Her characters are vividly drawn, and their stories provide the reader with insight into a period of our nation’s history that often goes untold. Originally published as “Locke, 1928” by the small press El Leon Literary Arts, the book was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and was recently re-released as “Water Ghosts” by Penguin Books. In this interview, Ryan discussed the balance of historical and aesthetic elements within her novel, and the power of fiction in enriching our understanding of history.

Robert Alford: I’d like to begin by talking about the town of Locke, Calif. What inspired you to write about the history of this particular community?=

Shawna Yang Ryan: Well, Locke is a very interesting and unique place and I grew up in Sacramento, which is not that far away, so I’d visited Locke and had some memory of it. Then later when I got older and read up about it, I found out that not only was this community built by the Chinese and intended to be an all Chinese community, but that also, because they were working against the immigration laws of the time, it was a bachelor community, but they were trying very hard to establish it as a family community. And then they also had these brothels there which they wouldn’t allow Chinese women to work in, so they had white women working in them, which was also very unusual considering the anti-miscegenation laws of the time and the racial dynamics. So there were a lot of things going on in the town that make it a really interesting place to start talking about the Chinese immigrant experience in the early 20th century.


Editorial cartoon "A skeleton in His Closet" by L.M. Glackens in Puck Magazine, Jan. 3, 1912. Uncle Sam holds a paper,"Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans" and looks with shock upon a Chinese skelton labeled "American exclusion of Chinese" in his closet.


R.A.: What was your research process like in preparing to write your novel?

S.Y.R.: Well, I started with the library. I started with some book research to get a foundation, and I was also reading novels written in that time period to get a feel for the pop culture and the language and the style. And then I went and lived in Locke for a month so I could really get a sensory feeling for the place. Continue reading

Where we’re going wrong in the immigration debate

By Adam Hyla, Real Change

Even as corporations embark on what has been called “a carefully managed facility migration process” (i.e., going wherever workers come cheap), migration by human beings is a subject still ruled by parochialism.

Most of the public discourse on the subject has focused on the situation of migrants once they’ve arrived at their destinations. On the left, humanitarians highlight the untenable position of those in the shadows. On the right, people talk of the moral consequences of entering through a side door.

Both sides, says journalist Jeffrey Kaye, fail to look at the cause of their argument.

Legalized or not, he writes in his new book “Moving Millions: How Coyote Capitalism Fuels Global Immigration,” (Wiley, 2010), migration is one fundamental aspect of human mobility. It’s a force at work in the Philippines, whose citizens fill one-third of the world’s nursing jobs — even as their home country’s hospitals crumble. It’s present in Morocco, where people from all over the African continent live in overcrowded conditions, waiting for a boatride toward the Canary Islands, and where an average of two bodies wash up daily along a shoreline patrolled by the European Union. It’s there along the United States-Mexico border, where stepped-up enforcement by federal agents and National Guard troops diverts, but doesn’t dampen, the economic pressure pushing Latin America’s jobless across la frontera.

“Despite the wishes of migration restrictionists, ancient impulses to escape hardships or to go in search of greener pastures are not going to come to a halt just because political lines have been drawn and laws passed,” writes Kaye, a freelance journalist and longtime reporter for the PBS NewsHour. “Build walls, and people will go over, around, or under them,” he continues. “Hire border guards, and smugglers will bribe them. Step up patrols, and migrants will find alternate routes. Provide better-paying jobs, and workers will get to them. Migration will not be stopped. But in the best of all possible worlds, nations should strive to ensure that migrants cross borders because they want to, not because they have to.”

A cultural re-examination of most American natives’ own family histories, says Kaye, might help them see illegal immigrants’ motives in a more sympathetic light. And national governments, in his view, need to get together and frankly discuss their policies, whether they are sending workers abroad or taking them in.

Adam Hyla: What do you mean by “coyote capitalism”?

Jeffrey Kaye: You know what a coyote is, right? A human smuggler. Someone who gets paid to take people across the border. They don’t really care about the circumstances, about what’s pushing people out or pulling people in, they get someone to where they’re supposed to be going and they get paid. It’s a term that refers to a global system of immigration, often and usually without too much regard for the consequences of migration or the effects on the migrants themselves. Continue reading

Portland Immigrant and Civil Rights Advocates to Denounce Anti-Immigrant Initiatives in Oregon and Arizona

What: Press conference against Arizona SB 1070
When: Tuesday, April 27th, 11 AM
Where: St Francis Church, 1131 SE Oak St, Portland, Oregon (the corner of 12th and Pine)

Portland day laborer and faith, immigrant, and civil rights advocates are joining in a national day of action against Arizona SB 1070, which requires local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration law and interrogate, and even jail, people based on whether they “look” undocumented.
SB 1070 was passed by the Arizona Legislature and approved by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23rd, 2010.  Portland advocates, concerned about the precedent set by the bill, will hold a press conference on the heels of her decision. Throughout the nation, community groups in over 10 cities will hold local events and coordinate advocacy efforts to “uncover the truth” on these dangerous programs.

“Arizona SB 1070 gives police a mandate to racially profile,” stated Romeo Sosa, Executive Director of VOZ.  “We are standing in solidarity with the people of Arizona against this bill, and calling for a moratorium on collaboration of local law enforcement with ICE.”

Locally, the recent introduction of the Secure Communities program into Clackamas County Jail raises the stakes in Oregon for similar collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement officials.

The press conference is organized by the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition. For more information, contact Marco Mejia at 503.740.8035 or mejiayep@yahoo.com.

Living between two worlds: African refugees battle cultural isolation as they try to adapt to their new home in Portland


From the August 7 edition of Street Roots. 

On a toasty Tuesday afternoon, Suleqa Ismail wears the trademarks of two different continents: her dark, shoulder-length headscarf reflects the tradition of her native Somalia, while the purse she carries — white with a sequined Minnie Mouse appliqué — is classic American. The split runs through her family, too: The oldest of Ismail’s four children, 9-year-old daughter Fartun, was born in Africa, but her 17-month-old son, Fuad, is a stateside native.

There’s even some ambivalence to her experience in the United States. Although Ismail and her husband, Saleman Adan, are infinitely grateful that they were able to leave war-plagued Somalia and come here as refugees four years ago, the challenges they’ve faced since have made their transition less than smooth. They’re one of many African families in Portland who’ve run across serious housing hurdles since arriving in the U.S.

Since January of 2007, Ismail and Adan have lived with their children at the New Columbia, the Housing Authority of Portland’s sprawling low-income housing complex in North Portland. They pay a third of their income for rent, which was adjusted down when Adan was laid off from his job with a rental car company in February of last year.

This spring, they received a letter stating that the clutter in their yard was in violation of their lease, but because they can’t read English and speak only a Somali dialect called Maay Maay, they didn’t realize the notice was important, and it was forgotten.

In July, to their surprise, Ismail and Adan received a final eviction notice. The couple was baffled. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!


Posted Jan. 22, 2009

So much news, so little time! But it only takes a minute to trade a buck for the finest collection of news and information assembled on 16 pages. Here’s what you’ll find in the new edition of Street Roots, available from our outstanding vendors Friday morning:

Bordering on insanity: Portland author and educator Martha Gies combines her own personal insight on Mexico with reflections on a new book by John Gibler on how immigration policies are denying migrants the dignified life they risk their lives to find. John Gibler will be speaking at Powell’s books on Feb. 6.

Legislature weighs individual, state needs for assistance: General Assistance, the state program that once tied people over while they navigated the bureaucracy of Social Security, was eliminated years ago, but there’s a new push to reinstate it, against some dismal economic odds. Mara Grunbaum reports.

Helen Thomas: The First Lady of the White House press corps talked with Joanne Zuhl about her return to cover her 10th administration. Ms. Thomas talks about the responsibility of the press, it’s failures, and her hopes for the Obama administration.

Street Roots 2008 Annual Report: A guide to our year, our supporters, our vendors and all things Street Roots.

Plus, columns by Alejandro Queral, John Thompson and a highlight of some memorable quotes from interviews with John Dean, Angela Davis, Brandon Roy and more! Chime in on our blog, or e-mail us your thoughts at joanne@streetroots.org.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl