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Portland Human Rights Council 5/27 Meeting on Immigration

Here's something I covered for some local independent media, which didn't run. The Portland Human Rights Commission held a hearing on immigration at the end of May. PPB and Multnomah County Sheriffs were there, as well as community groups. It's a good overview on immigration reform. And I know giving the cops quotes aren't necessarily welcome here, but they were there. I'd be remiss, writing for this other publication, if I didn't at least throw their quotes in there. Obviously, we know they're full of shit. Oh, and yes I know this thing could have been like three hundred words shorter. Presumably, someone would have edited it.
The Portland Human Rights Commission held a public hearing on May 27 to discuss
local and state law enforcement's relationships with Immigrations and Customs
Enforcement (ICE). In emotional testimony, the Commission heard from immigrant
students and representatives from community groups that serve immigrant
communities. Public commentary was unequivocally against collaboration between
ICE and local law enforcement.

Soledad Juarez, a Portland State student said her family, some of which have gone
through naturalization and some who haven't, has been "torn up and dismantled
because of the police and ICE collaboration". "Around November of last year, while
driving, my cousin and his wife were stopped by police officers. My cousin did not
have a valid driver's license and his wife did not have any form of identification. They
were both taken to jail, where their immigration status was checked. That was all it
took for them to be deported back to Mexico. The horrible thing is that they were
never asked if they had any children. They never mentioned that they had four little
girls waiting for them at home. These four little girls were taken in by my brother. He
was the brave one who had the courage to tell these scared little girls that for
reasons that they don't understand, they could not see their parents for awhile."

Bernadette Romero, an immigrant American citizen from Mexico, cried as she
said "Before I came here, I didn't know that 'immigrant' had a negative connotation.
It is hard to see how my fellow countrymen are treated. I was lucky enough to have
an education and a good life back in my country. The reason why I stood up here is
just to speak on behalf of those people who never had that opportunity. I've always
admired the United States because you hold freedom and equality as your core
principle and in my opinion, everything I've heard and I've seen and I've lived go
against it."

Jordan Cunnings, an employee of a local law firm, works with immigrant victims of
domestic violence, those who face exploitative labor practices and sex
workers. "These people already face insurmountable barriers," she said. "We've also
had clients who themselves have been arrested, even though they're victims and put
into the immigration deportation system. And I just think that is a huge injustice."
The commission has previously condemned Arizona's state law 1070, which requires
that all US immigrants carry documents indicating their legal status and forces local
law enforcement to stop and determine the immigration status of anyone they
suspect to be illegally present in the US. The law has sparked widespread and
diverse popular protest, as well as condemnations from the Federal government and
is set to go into effect on July 28.

Further testimony from Stephen Manning, of the commission's own Community
Police Relations Committee, Shizuku Hashimoto, of the Portland coalition of
immigrant's and civil rights groups, Safe Communities, Andrea Meyer, executive
director of the Oregon American Civil Liberties Union, new Portland Police Chief Mike
Reese and Multnomah County Sheriffs' Chief Deputy Tim Moore.

Manning gave a presentation, describing immigration detention as the fastest-
growing, least-regulated form of civil detention in America. He said the federal
government will detain about 400,000 people this year at 350 different facilities, at a
cost of $2 billion. 70% of those detained are detained in privately-contracted prisons.
He also stated that Portland is the sixteenth-fastest growing center for "new
Americans," with Latino and Asian immigrants accounting for the bulk of these
numbers. Manning also stated that Latino and Asian-owned businesses account for
around 40,000 jobs and contribute $4 billion, annually. He described the
relationships between police and communities of color as "tense".

He also spoke of the government's term "criminal alien," as "propaganda". "It's used
to deter criticism. Who wants to be in support of aliens who happen to be criminals?
No one does."

Other panelists and commissioners expressed their opposition to the pejorative
nature of this term. The term "criminal alien" is applied to anyone in US immigration
custody. Any immigrant who is detained by the Portland police is subject to
deportation. Manning stated that over 60% of those deported by ICE have no
criminal conviction. No conviction is required. It could be any level of offense, or no
offense at all. He said 70% percent of deportations in the last fiscal year came as a
result of non-violent offenses that would not have satisfied any previous definition
of "criminal alien".

Manning painted a picture of a typical encounter that lead to deportation. Manning
said that after a stop resulting in arrest and pre-trial booking, biometric evidence (in
this case fingerprints) are collected by a local municipality. These are submitted to
law enforcement databases. If ICE has these prints on file, they dispatch officers to
local jails, where they are allowed access. During an ICE interview, legal counsel is
never present and Miranda rights are never read. Immigration officials often
persuade suspects to waive their rights, to fast-track deportation. Privately-
contracted immigration facilities have been faulted for providing substandard health
services to those imprisoned. There were no public record-keeping systems in place
concerning detainee deaths in immigration detention until recently. Numerous cover-
ups by government officials regarding detainee deaths have been exposed by the
press.

Secure Communities is a program that Oregon participates in that automates the
transfer of biometric data obtained during local booking. Multnomah, Clackamas and
Marion Counties and the Oregon State Police currently participate in the Secure
Communities Program. He said 86% of those with a detainer placed under Secure
Communities were for non-violent offenses. The Department of Homeland Security
and ICE's Operation: Endgame strategy seeks to remove all undocumented
immigrants from the US by 2012.

"There's no transparency," he said. "We have no idea how these programs have
come into being and we have no means of checking if these programs are being
legitimately used."

Meyer stated that, in contrast to the Arizona legislation, Oregon state law prevents
law enforcement from detaining anyone on the basis of suspected immigration
violation. It does not prohibit them from sharing information with ICE.
"The problem is ICE presence in the jails," she said.

Chief Deputy Moore's said the County Sheriffs "cooperate minimally" with ICE. He
called they visit the County booking facility "sporadically," though he could provide
no figures as to the actual number of visits.

Moore stated that collaboration with federal law enforcement, which includes giving
them access to the booking area of county detention facilities, is standard, as is
asking someone who is arrested their country of origin, mandated by the federal
State Department, for consular notification. ICE has access to this information.
Country of origin also factors into SCAAP, the State Criminal Alien Assistance
Program. This is a federal program whereby the federal government keeps records
on the nationally of people detained, to reimburse local law enforcement for the cost
of holding immigration prisoners. He stated that having an informal agreement
allowing ICE access to prisoners was simply cost-effective and that Multnomah
County honors all detainers as a courtesy.

Hashimoto said that more "unfettered" ICE in county jails is a "recent development".
She said she is researching how Secure Communities was adopted in Multnomah
County.

"Nobody says they signed anything," she said.

She spoke about the Fresh Del Monte workplace raid conducted by ICE in Portland in
2007. "Nobody thought that was appropriate to happen in our communities." She
said deportations from the Pacific Northwest are projected to hit 11,000, as
compared to 4,000 in 2005, when more dramatic ICE workplace sweeps were
common. She said that in light of SCAAP funding, taxpayers are paying for
immigration detainees to be imprisoned.

Addressing local law enforcement's relationship with ICE, she said "They're extremely
proactive about selling you their product. They actually come into your house and
they're showing their Tupperware, but once they start getting rowdy and once they start
bothering the rest of your family, you've invited them into your house and our
community is asking you to start dis-inviting them."

Numerous speakers reported that immigrants under-report crimes and are more
frequently the targets of crimes, if any contact with law enforcement will mean
deportation. These programs, they said, increase the likelihood of racial profiling.
Jordan Cunnings, an employee of a local law firm, works with immigrant victims of
domestic violence, those who face exploitative labor practices and sex
workers. "These people already face insurmountable barriers," she said. "We've also
had clients who themselves have been arrested, even though they're victims and put
into the immigration deportation system. And I just think that is a huge injustice."
Celia Higuera, of the Washington County Sexual Assault Resource Center said the
same. She said that perpetrators of sexual assault against immigrants often threaten
their victims with the fact that if they approach law enforcement, they will be
deported.

Portland Police Chief Mike Reese spoke briefly to state, as has been the case at other
police-community related events, that the police are public servants.

"I am your chief of police," he said. He called the testimony he heard "troubling".

"It is not our intention, as a police bureau, to aid in the deportation of people in
minor crimes, the breaking up of families." He said immigration policies
had "unintended consequences", and said that he personally felt that pre-conviction
deportation was wrong.

"With the Secure Communities and the levels of review that ICE is supposed to
doing, if they're not using the information that we provide them appropriately and
looking only at the most dangerous offenders, then our commitment to providing
them with this information needs to be reviewed."

Reese left before public commentary, but Portland Police Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea
remained.

The Portland Human Rights Commission is appointed by the City Council, and is
composed of volunteers. The group was formed in 2008 and seeks to "eliminate
discrimination and bigotry, to strengthen inter-group relationships and to foster
greater understanding, inclusion and justice for those who live, work, study, worship,
travel and play in the City of Portland," according to their website.
They have not yet publicly disclosed any actions that they will be taking, or
recommendations.