Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to Portland, Oregon, seemingly to stoke the public’s fears and anxieties with exaggerated tales about crime rates. He was also here to try to bully our state and local law enforcement into participating in Trump’s racist deportation force, despite a 30-year-old Oregon law that makes it clear that our local resources are not to be used on federal matters.
 
Here is the reality in Oregon: Under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is out of control. ICE has been prowling our county courthouses, harassing people based on the color of their skin, and tearing apart Oregon families. They have raided Dreamers at home and targeted mothers, fathers, and a van full of agricultural workers. And because ICE refuses to release information about enforcement actions, there are likely many more stories that have gone unheard.
 
Like many courthouses across the nation, ICE has been targeting the Washington County courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon. This predatory behavior from ICE is a huge problem for the local communities because defendants, witnesses, and victims are scared to come to court.
 
Since May, a group of ACLU of Oregon volunteer legal observers have been monitoring ICE activity at the courthouse in Hillsboro. They have documented at least 10 arrests at the court including a mother whose children were waiting for her with a babysitter, a father of three who was at the court to pay a traffic ticket, and four arrests inside the courthouse. ICE keeps arresting people at the court despite calls from Oregon’s top officials to stop courthouse arrests. Is ICE accountable to no one?
 
Last week, a group of faith leaders and local activists came together to hold a vigil outside the Washington County court to protest the ICE arrests there. Local media were there to cover the vigil, in addition to ACLU of Oregon volunteer legal observers and staff. Our staff attorney caught ICE agents filming the protesters, a clear violation of state and federal laws. But that wasn’t even the worst of it.

As the interfaith vigil was going on steps away, plainclothes ICE agents surrounded a Isidro Andrade-Tafolla and his wife as they left the court, and without identifying themselves, started to harass Isidro and demanded to see his ID.

 
Isidro Andrade-Tafolla and his wife were leaving the courthouse, when a group of people in street clothes, who he later found out where ICE agents, surrounded his car and demanded to see his ID. One agent showed him a mugshot on her phone and said it was him, but when Isidro and his wife saw the picture they were shocked: the only resemblance was the color of his skin. 
 
Thankfully, our legal observer who recognized the agents, was able to film the encounter on our Mobile Justice app. Once a crowd of bystanders started to form and ask questions, the federal agents quickly fled. Now that their tactics have been exposed, ICE says this was a case of “mistaken identity,” but we see a clear case of racial profiling. 
 
Isidro was shaken up by the discriminatory experience, and he is speaking out about what happened to him and his wife. He is a citizen and has worked for the county for 20 years on the maintenance crew. He worries that his children could get targeted and harassed by ICE based on the color of their skin, too. 
 
Oregon Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer sent ICE a letter demanding an investigation into the incident. Earlier this year, they introduced legislation to add courthouses to the list of “sensitive locations” where immigration enforcement is prohibited like daycares, schools, and hospitals. The local sheriff also spoke out against the dangers of plainclothes officers making arrests without identifying themselves. This incident underscores the need for ICE to stay out of courthouses and properly identify themselves at the beginning of any encounter.
 
ICE will be hearing from us about their activities at the Washington County courthouse. Federal agents cannot just go around stopping anyone who looks Latino and demanding to “see their papers.” This should not be happening in the United States. 
 

 

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