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PDX Immigration Roundup: Tip of the ICEberg

ICE terrorizes and traumatizes immigrant workers
Amnesty Now!
Amnesty Now!
Corporate Media
Corporate Media
Denied Access
Denied Access
The New Sanctuary Movement
The New Sanctuary Movement
PDX Immigration Roundup: Tip of the ICEberg

In response to yesterday's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid at the Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. plant in North Portland, over 300 immigrant workers, worker families and immigrant rights supporters came together last night to voice concerns and learn about resources available to those affected by the worker roundup in which 167 were arrested and detained for immigration violations.

At the emergency forum held at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in N.E. Portland and organized by local immigrant advocacy organizations and legal advisors, attendees learned about what rights are guaranteed undocumented workers upon arrest and detainment by ICE; what assistance is available families of those detained, and; what best next plans must be coordinated as it is expected that ICE is sure to add another notch to their "criminalization of immigrants (quotes by author)" campaign.

The evening began with some negotiation with local T.V. reporters. Forum organizers were concerned with the issue of video recording in contrast with necessary confidentiality regarding immigration status of some in attendance. Employer retaliation was also a concern as some worried about what reaction Del Monte supervisors would have upon seeing employees on camera at the pro-immigrant event. While the handful of corporate media sat in a funk just outside the church meeting hall, organizers discussed with attendees whether or not to allow filming access. After lengthy discussion among those in attendance, it was finally decided that those who did not want to be on camera would move to the right of the hall. In the end, only one photographer from the Oregonian was seen taking photos.

"We Are Not Criminals!"

After Father Charles Lienardt led a prayer asking that those affected by the Del Monte raid be provided with strength and support during their ordeal, VOZ day laborer organizer Pedro Sosa next addressed the crowd. As he waved a $20 bill in the air, he asked the audience what it was that he held in his hand and what one could do with it. After a myriad of responses, he crumbled the bill and threw it on the floor. "What can we do with it now?" Stepping on the bill and grinding it into the floor he asked, "Does it still have worth? Does it still have value?"

"Yes," came the answer. Sosa then held the wadded bill in the air. "I hope that when we think of the worth of this money that we think of our own worth. We have been stepped on and beaten down but we still have value, we still have worth and we still have our dignity. We must remain united in our opposition to a structure has no dignity and only values us for our labor and then throws us away when we are no longer needed. We are workers! We are not criminals!"

This was met with cheers and a brief discussion about the necessity of maintaining a united front. It was then time for an overview of the day's events. It was explained that the raid was the culmination of a six-month investigation into the illegal manufacturing and sales of identification cards including fraudulent social security numbers. Is is alleged by ICE that nine out of ten of those employed by Del Monte were hired while using phony I.D.s.

The forum next moved to those in attendance sharing their experiences. Family members spoke emotionally about not knowing where spouses, children and siblings were detained, how to reach them or when or if they would be deported. It was said that Del Monte supervisors were giving out as little explanation and information as possible to workers and their families. Daycare providers told of children who were still in their care as of late evening because their parents had been carted off by ICE law enforcement. When one daycare provider asked authorities what steps to take to reunite the children with their family, she was told to turn the children over to the Department of Human Resources. Another story was told of a neighboring family whose underage children were waiting for their parents to come home. With this, it was announced that immigration attorneys were in attendance and that anyone with questions about the location and status of family members, questions regarding their own resident status as well as information about reunification were free to meet in an adjoining room with counsel. Approximately more than a third of those present rose to do so.

Immigrant Rights and Sanctuary

Attendees were next informed of their basic rights and learned that they had the right to remain silent and request an attorney. They also were informed that they had the right to appeal their charges and request release on humanitarian assignment. This category can be extended to those under medical care, women who are pregnant or those who are the sole caregiver or family provider (obvious Catch-22 noted here). There is also the possible that some arrested may be released if it is evidenced that they are not a threat to the community. It is not known at this time if anyone has been released from the Tacoma WA Detention Center where they are held.

Also brought into discussion was the formation of a new Sanctuary Movement. This Movement reached its height in the mid 1980's as U.S. residents provided sanctuary for Central American refugees fleeing the U.S. sponsored terrorist death squads. These death squads who put into practice lessons learned at the U.S. School of the Americas, were responsible for the rape, torture, mutilation and murder of 300,00 innocent Central American civilians from 1979-87.

As the evening grew long and the schedule behind, some voiced the need to take organized action in a show of solidarity. It was also said that there was an immediate need to establish a worker fund for families targeted by ICE. It was suggested that those interested in forming committees to discuss specific tactics of resistance join together for separate discussions. Some tactics discussed were the possibility of an informational picket and migra (ICE) watch at Del Monte and other companies with a large immigrant workforce, an info picket at the Mexican Consulate as well as at the ICE office and a concerted effort to focus on Portland Mayor Tom Potter to urge him to implement discourse with ICE on comprehensive and humanitarian immigration reform.

Thoughts and Analysis

As former volunteer and staff with PCUN, The Oregon Farmworker Union, I have for years seen first hand the rampant, blatant, violent and racist exploitation of Latino agricultural and cannery workers. As summer approaches, the fields in the Willamette Valley will soon be full with workers who put fruit and vegetables on our tables, pick the grapes for our wine and cut the hops for our beer. It is well known among farmworkers and farmworker organizers that growers have often worked in tandem with ICE in coordinating immigration raids. Many times, raids occur just after harvest and workers are deported without pay. Without our support, undocumented workers are not likely to often speak out against unfair wages, inhumane working conditions, harassment or much of anything else.

Yesterday's raid at Del Monte is sure to be one of many such operations. It is important to strategise, support and take part in organizing an active resistance to counter inhumane ICE tactics.

I ask you to keep in mind that ICE is a wing of Homeland Security, brought to us via the Patriot Act. I also ask that at your next meal, you take time to consider that everything on your plate was first touched by an immigrant worker. They take care of our children, clean our houses, mow our lawns, construct our housing, cook at our restaurants, bus cafeteria tables, scrub public toilets. I ask you to consider news wire images of pregnant women led to jail in ICE handcuffs and leg chains. What is her crime?

Immigrant workers provide for us. Let's come together and provide for them.


Resources: OREGON


Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services

Immigration Counseling Service

Lutheran Community Services of Oregon and SW Washington

Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees (SOAR)


Hood River Valley Immigration Project


Lane County Law and Advocacy Center


Catholic Charities of Southern Oregon


Oregon Law Center


Yamhill County Community Action Program
503.472.0457 ext. 224 (Yamhill residents only)



Lutheran Community Services of Oregon and SW Washington
360.694.5624 ext. 26


Marco Mejia,  mejiayep@yahoo.com

homepage: homepage: http://molotovmojada.blogspot.com

Call the ICE Nazis 14.Jun.2007 08:31


Here is the phone number of the ICE SS responsible for this latest pogrom. Call them and let them know how you feel ! 206-835-0560

Great! 15.Jun.2007 14:51

@nother mama

This is excellant reporting Marlena! I know you from your work with PCUN and your classes at PSU. I look forward to more articles from you.

As for the raids, I think that understanding that the immigrant has been criminalized by Hollywood and the media is the first hurdle here. To see that so many bigoted and uninformed people put immigrant workers in the same category as hardened criminals makes no sense, and you are right, it is time to stand in solidarity with immigrant workers.

Hey @nother Mama 15.Jun.2007 21:37

Marlena Gangi

Yes, I hear you about the criminalization. Also demonization, I would say.

One thing that has struck me about the raids is that it has put a human face on the immigrant workforce. Those held in detention are not being detained for acts of homicide or criminal drug trafficking. They are hard workers who do not benefit from the taxes taken out of their income, they are mothers and fathers wanting to provide for their families. It remains to be seen if the public will look at any of this with a critical analysis.