9/22/17 - Salem - Attorney General Jeff Sessions visit to Portland this week was part of a national junket by the AG to highlight criminal conduct by undocumented workers in this country. This tour is clearly intended to create a media narrative that stokes nativist fears and justifies policies that threaten the basic civil liberties of every American, but especially those in our immigrant communities or who merely look like immigrants.
Oregonians were given a harsh reminder of this Monday, when a hispanic man, a US citizen, and Washington County employee was detained by ICE near a protest in support of immigrant rights. It should be noted that there was no evidence he participated in the protest, he was merely doing business at the Courthouse.
This action is troubling on many levels. First, ICE is continuing to seek to detain people at or near Oregon court houses, despite requests from Oregon's chief justice that they not do so because it deters victims and witnesses from participating in prosecutions. Second, according to the person detained, he shared very little similarity with the suspect, other than both were hispanic, which could suggest ICE engaged in racial profiling. And, finally, that the action took place near a protest in support of immigrant rights could suggest that ICE is attempting to suppress legitimate protest against the agency's policies and conduct.
It is particularly disturbing that none of the several ICE officers identified themselves as law enforcement, to either the detained persons or to witnesses. ICE Spokesperson Virginia Kice has told the media that ICE officers are required to identify themselves to people if they're interacting with them as part of their official duties, but that sometimes they don't in potentially dangerous situations. The video clearly shows this was not a dangerous situation, there were numerous officers present none of whom identified themselves, and their show of force was overwhelming. To the extent there was a dangerous situation, it was created by the ICE officers failure to abide by their own requirements.
We call on Attorney General, Ellen Rosenblum and Governor Kate Brown to open an investigation into the conduct of ICE agents in the state of Oregon, including whether they are engaged in conduct that is intended to chill the free speech rights of people engaged in lawful protest and the impact that the agency's actions have on victims and witnesses in civil and criminal cases because of ICE's continued use of courthouse arrests. Finally we call for an investigation into whether this specific group of ICE agents violated any state or federal laws by failing to identify themselves during this encounter.
Rob Harris, an IPO state council member and Executive Director of the Washington County Indigent defense attorney consortium made the following observation: "There have been high level meetings at the Courthouse about the potential for damage to our criminal justice and public safety these courthouse apprehensions have. ICE clearly doesn't care about our entire criminal justice system. So it's up to our state's political leadership to take a proactive stance to ensure that our criminal justice system is effective and that the basic civil rights of Oregonians are protected."