A Community Response to Sheriffs’ Announcements to Limits on Police-ICE Collaboration

After years of community pressure across Oregon and across the country, the Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington County Sheriffs’ Offices have finally announced that, as of May 16, 2014, they will stop honoring requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold undocumented individuals in jail for transfer to ICE custody. The Sheriffs’ decisions directly follow a federal judge’s ruling that Clackamas County violated a woman’s 4th amendment rights by holding her for immigration authorities. The ruling says that Oregon jails should not be holding noncitizens if the only reason to do so is an ICE hold (or detainer). And furthermore, that counties are potentially liable if they do so.

This is big news! This may prevent hundreds of Oregonians from being swept into immigration proceedings. But let’s be clear on a couple of things. This ruling was made possible by years of work by undocumented people, their families, and the larger community coming together, organizing, and denouncing this injustice. The Sheriffs’ have not made this decision based on their good will or because they suddenly had a change of heart. They are doing it because they are scared of being sued for damages.

The ruling, and the announcements by the Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington County Sheriffs’ have led to a domino effect, with a dozen Oregon counties now publicly announcing that they will stop holding undocumented people in jail on ICE’s request if only reason to do so is because of their legal status. At this moment in time, Clackamas, Washington, Multnomah, Deschutes, Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Wheeler, Marion, Jefferson, and Gilliam counties have all issued announcements that they will stop honoring ICE holds.

This comes the same week that a similar policy was announced in Philadelphia. It directly follows two Oregon Dream Activist release campaigns targeting the Washington County Sheriff’s office for their collaboration with ICE.  These decisions come at a time when detainees at the Northwest Detention Center are organizing from the inside for fair treatment, the Bring Them Home Campaign is organizing from both sides of the border to bring people back to the US after deportations, and the Ni Uno Mas (Not One More) campaign is organizing civil disobediences across the country.

We are seeing a surge of exciting actions in the immigrants’ rights movement. And we are seeing political shifts as a result. Specifically, it seems that it is no longer politically feasible in many places for local police to collaborate directly with immigrations enforcement – a practice that has been the norm in many places since the national Secure Communities program began in 2008.


What will the Sheriffs’ announcements actually mean for our communities?

The news that counties will be limiting collaboration with ICE is good news. Years of local law enforcement collaboration with ICE holds has been devastating to thousands of Oregonians. In Clackamas county alone, over 1500 people in the last five years were held in jail for transfer into ICE custody. The decision by these counties is having an immediate effect. This week, people across the state have been released from county jails because of the decision. Further, it is a great accomplishment to know that many undocumented people in Oregon will now feel less fear going about their daily lives; driving to work, going to school, and escaping domestic violence.

The county Sheriff’s’ announcements will have an effect on the presence of ICE in our communities.  ICE will no longer be present inside jails or be communicating directly with police, though they will still have information about undocumented people who are being arrested locally. It remains to be seen whether they will choose to act on that information.

ICE will continue to maintain a presence in Oregon. ICE may issue or forward a federal judicial warrant or order authorizing a suspected undocumented person’s detention and the local jails will honor such warrants and orders. Police will still take fingerprints, run them through the federal ICE database, and both Police and ICE will know if someone is undocumented or not. ICE can still do house visit arrests, workplace raids, or stand outside of the county jails and await a person’s release.  ICE will still be detaining people in Tacoma and deporting people from Oregon.

What does this mean about the presence of Police in our communities? We were excited to hear about this policy change. However, we also know that what the police say they do, and what they actually do, are two very different things. We are going to have to keep organizing and keep monitoring the police to pressure them to actually follow their new policy.

Regardless of the new policy, poor people and people of color in our schools, our workplaces, and our communities remain targets of disproportionate police presence and police violence. People are still stopped, ticketed, harassed, arrested, beaten, and sometimes killed for riding public transportation without a ticket, for driving without a licence, for sleeping on the sidewalk, or for having a mental health crisis.

The close relationship between ICE and the police is just a piece of the violence that many communities experience each and every day. We witness this and feel this in racial profiling of traffic stops, the huge presence of police in poor communities and communities of color, the criminalization of brown and black youth, and the incredibly disproportionate numbers of black, brown, and poor white people in prison.

The announcements from counties across Oregon are absolutely victories for our communities (though we know there is still work to be done!). This is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the power of organizing, to appreciate the work of so many, and to feel victorious. It is also an opportunity to take our struggle to the next level and join with other communities – to fight for an end to all deportations, for the right to migrate, and for an end to police violence.

We look forward to celebrating, coming out of the shadows, and taking to the streets with you on Tuesday, April 29th at the Washington County Sheriffs Office (215 SW Adams, MS 32 Hillsboro, OR 97123).  More details to come!


Note- If you support this statement and want to be added on, please comment on this post or email claire@pcasc.net.

Endorsing Organizations – Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, Bring Them Home – Oregon, Oregon Dream Activist, PCASC Immigrants’ Rights Committee, Hella 503

Endorsing Individuals –Liliana Luna, Claire Flanagan, Margarita Gutierrez, Jaime Guzman, Grace Schoenlank, Peter Parks, Julie Braker