Undocumented immigrants living locally face fears of deportation
Residents living in the Eugene area said Wednesday that they are nervous after Tuesday’s announcement that federal immigration authorities will begin aggressively locating, arresting and deporting people who are in the country illegally, regardless of whether they’re otherwise law-abiding.
Rose Richeson, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement public affairs officer for the Pacific Northwest, said Wednesday that ICE agents no longer will make deportation exceptions for any “class or category of removable aliens.”
“All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removed from the United States,” Richeson said.
A final order is a final judgement made by a judge.
The memorandum, Richeson said, makes it clear that ICE will prioritize the deportation of illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a crime. Richeson also said that, in compliance with the Tuesday memos, ICE would conduct “targeted enforcement operations and allocate resources to work in jurisdictions with violent crime tied to gang activities.”
Documents released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security outlined what policies and practices the Trump administration intends to implement in the coming months to combat illegal immigration.
The practices include enlisting local police officers to enforce immigration laws; establishing new detention facilities; publicizing crimes by undocumented immigrants; stripping such immigrants of privacy protections; discouraging asylum seekers; and immediately hiring at least 5,000 border patrol agents as well as 10,000 new ICE agents. The Trump administration has not announced how those new hires will be funded.
One of the memorandums directs the appropriate agencies to begin planning, designing, constructing and maintaining a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, complete with lighting, technology and sensors.
Despite Trump’s detailed implementation plans laid out Tuesday, local and state law enforcement officials said Wednesday that they had no intention of acting as ICE agents.
“The federal government has no authority to tell us to enforce immigration laws,” Oregon State Police Capt. Bill Fugate said. “In general, we can’t just enforce federal laws; we enforce state laws. We won’t be delegating our resources to enforcing immigration laws.”
Fugate pointed to a 2013 state law that prevents local and state law enforcement from using state money to locate people living in Oregon who are not U.S. citizens.
ORS 181.850 states: “No law enforcement agency of the State of Oregon or of any political subdivision of the state shall use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation of law is that they are persons of foreign citizenship present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”
Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns echoed Fugate’s comments and cited the same law.
Earlier this month, Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order of her own designed to bolster protections in Oregon against deportation and discrimination of people who immigrated to the country without authorization.
Brown’s executive order bans state agencies from helping federal immigration officials find or arrest illegal immigrants. That would expand Oregon’s 1987 “sanctuary state” law, which already prevents any state or local law enforcement agency from doing so. The order also would explicitly prohibit state agencies from discriminating against illegal immigrants, unless existing state or federal law requires them to do so.
Brown’s executive order would apply to agencies such as the Department of Human Services, which administers Oregon’s safety net social service programs, as well as the Department of Education and the Department of Transportation.
Brown said at the time that she was concerned about news reports of plainclothes federal immigration officers making arrests and appearing to monitor people at the Multnomah County courthouse in Portland.
She acknowledged that she hasn’t heard of any state agency receiving requests from federal immigration officers for state assistance in implementing deportation efforts. Brown said her order primarily is a preventive measure.
“I want our agencies to understand that folks will not be targeted based on their immigration status,” she said.
Brown’s office did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment about stepped-up border security, immigration enforcement and deportations.
Deportations have taken place across the nation for years, including during the Obama administration, when 2.4 million people were deported from fiscal year 2009 to 2014, including a record 435,000 in 2013, according to DHS data.
The population of unauthorized immigrants living in Oregon is unclear. Census data indicate that about 130,000 undocumented residents lived in Oregon in 2014, according to the most recent Pew Research Center data.
Advocates of a new state law dubbed by supporters as “Cover All Kids,” which would extend government-funded health insurance in Oregon to many unauthorized immigrant children, estimate that about 17,900 unauthorized immigrants younger than age 19 live in the state.
But Lane County immigrant rights advocates and organizations said Wednesday that the Trump administration is using fear and intimidation tactics in its fight against illegal immigration.
David Sáez, executive director of Centro Latino Americano, said Wednesday that those tactics are working. Centro Latino Americano is a bilingual, multicultural agency that serves Latino families in Lane County.
Sáez said fear among some undocumented members of the community, as well as family members of those populations, grows with each new memorandum or executive order issued by the Trump administration or the president himself.
“There are people who are keeping their children home from school and who aren’t going to work because they’re scared,” Sáez said. “Being a safe community is critical. … We need to make sure our schools, our city, our county and our state are creating safe environments that allow people to go to work, to school, to get their groceries without feeling afraid.”
The new enforcement policies put into practice language that Trump used on the campaign trail, vastly expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” and warning that such unauthorized immigrants “routinely victimize Americans,” disregard the “rule of law and pose a threat” to people across the United States.
Despite those assertions in the new documents, research based on census data shows that there are lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.
Sáez alleges that much of the language presented in orders and memorandums from the Trump administration directly contradict the U.S. Constitution, which in a way can protect those who are prepared.
“How these documents were worded and how they square with the Constitution and the rights people have regardless of their status,” Sáez said. “A lot of what’s in those memos is contradictory to the law of the land, and I’m hopeful that we can challenge them.”
To prepare for the situation some Oregonians could face, Sáez said he and his colleagues at Centro Latino Americano have been holding workshops to provide guidance for immigrants in case ICE agents knock at their door.
“We’re helping families put together emergency preparedness kits so that if there’s a family member deported or detained, that there’s a plan of what will happen to kids and other family members,” he said.
Examples of those preparations included making extra car and house keys, gathering important documents and informing families of their rights.
Juan Carlos Valle, vice president and council treasurer of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Lane County, said Wednesday that LULAC also will be helping families prepare for what could happen.
“This is what’s left for us to do,” Valle said. “We need to inform our families of their rights and tell them not to get in trouble, because at this point they’ll (federal immigration agents) use any excuse to arrest them. We have to be the ones taking this step. They have to know we have their backs and we’ll speak up. This is my responsibility.”
Email Alisha at alisha.roemeling@register guard.com .
TIPS FOR THOSE WORRIED ABOUT DEPORTATION
Don’t open the door, but be calm. You have rights.
Ask what they are there for, and ask for an interpreter if you need one.
If they ask to enter, ask if they have a warrant signed by a judge; if so, ask to see it through a window or slipped under the door.
If they do not have a warrant signed by a judge, you may refuse to let them in. Ask them to leave any information at your door.
If they force their way in, don’t resist. Tell everyone in the residence to remain silent.
If you are arrested, remain silent and do not sign anything until you speak to a lawyer.
Follow driving laws and maintain a good criminal record. Younger generations should stay busy and in school, be respectful and avoid friends who might get in trouble.
— Source: Juan Carlos Valle of the League of United
Latin American Citizens in Lane County via the ACLU