Deportation arrests rise in Rockwood, Latinos say

Article author: 
Zane Sparling
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Article date: 
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
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Oregon Issues
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Breaking a trend, ICE office reports 129 arrests in March.

Deportation agents are stepping up arrests in the Rockwood neighborhood, according to a prominent nonprofit leader in the Latino community.

"What we call the Rockwood area — maybe the David Douglas (School District) — it's always been a no man's land," said community organizer Francisco Lopez. "Nobody pays attention to the area, except ICE."

Lopez heads Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario, which runs citizenship classes and has organized several marches against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.

The organization has identified hot spots in Rockwood (Multnomah County) and the Cornelius and Forest Grove areas west of Hillsboro (Washington County.)

Lopez said more undocumented immigrants are being arrested in these areas than in previous years.

Lopez says the group tracks phone calls from immigrants seeking legal help, which usually arrive after a family member has been picked up.

"The East Multnomah County area has been targeted more aggressively," Lopez argued. "We have seen a lot of phone calls saying, 'They arrested my husband,' 'They arrested my son.'"

The latest numbers from ICE, while not showing a prolonged uptick, do confirm that the business of deportation is continuing as usual.

Deportation officers based in Portland arrested 129 people in March — a big jump — before returning to 68 arrests in April, which is more in line with normal arrest figures.

For comparison, ICE's Portland office made 92 arrests in February and 64 in January. In the three months prior to President Donald Trump's inauguration, October through December 2016, ICE's Portland office made between 71 and 79 arrests each month.

The agency has previously stated it doesn't compile arrest data by location, and it's unclear how many of those arrests occurred in Multnomah County. An ICE spokeswoman notes that those numbers are preliminary and should be considered unofficial estimates.

"Deportation officers carry out enforcement actions every day in locations around the country as part of the agency's mission to protect public safety, border security and the integrity of the nation's immigration system," spokeswoman Rose M. Richeson said in a brief statement.

The large bump in March arrests may be due to a high-profile ICE sweep in Oregon and Washington, which netted 84 undocumented immigrants over a three-day period beginning Saturday, March 25.

Of those arrested during the sweep, 60 had been previously arrested and 24 had no criminal background other than their immigration status, ICE said at the time.

"Man, I'm not surprised," said Lopez after being shown the latest tally. "March was a horrible month in the metro area."

For the newest numbers, ICE also did not specify whether any of those arrests occurred at or near courthouses in Multnomah County.

High-profile deportation arrests at justice centers topped newsfeeds earlier this year, at the same time many county and city officials were loudly re-affirming their commitment to sanctuary status.

Echoing previous reports, a spokesman for Multnomah County Sheriff's Office says undocumented immigrants need to feel safe speaking to uniformed police officers, who don't enforce immigration laws but frequently need the help of eyewitnesses to solve other crimes.

But it's also clear undocumented immigrants who are arrested for non-immigration crimes by local law enforcement are likely to end up on ICE's radar.

For instance, the Sheriff's Office sends all booking records to the state police, who then share that information with ICE.

"ICE may well have access to fingerprint information from the Oregon State Police, but that's not under the Sheriff's purview," explained Lt. Chad Gaidos, an MCSO spokesman. "That's not his decision to disseminate that. He has to follow Oregon state law."

David Olen Cross, a lawful immigration advocate, notes that ICE has access to jail records and other tracking numbers used by the FBI and state law enforcement.

"ICE isn't some separate government entity that doesn't have access to what everybody else does," he said.

Approximately 130,000 unauthorized immigrants live in Oregon, according to the nonprofit pollster Pew Research Center.