No Papers, No Fear: Dreamers Question ICE’s Understanding of Secure Communities

On Thursday, August 30, 2012, Jobs With Justice and Oregon Dream Activists staged a public rally and community assembly to support the reform of immigration policy nationally and within the Portland area. A diverse group of immigrants, residents and citizens gathered outside the Congress Center to listen to a series of speakers from the community discuss the impact of national policy on a local level. Speakers included VOZ Director Romeo Sosa, members of Jobs With Justice, Oregon Dream Activists, leaders from local faith communities, and individuals whose families have been negatively impacted by the current immigration regime.


The goals of the assembly were multifaceted, but an important objective was to request that the Multnomah county sheriff not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communities initiative. The controversial program mandates the collaboration of local authorities with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify and deport undocumented immigrants. It was initiated in 2008 by 14 jurisdictions and has since expanded to more than 3,000, but DHS has requested the funding to complete a nation-wide implementation in 2013.


The expansion of Secure Communities coincides with record numbers of deportations for each of the past three years. ICE claims that the program has concentrated on removing convicted criminals, which make up about half of total deportations. However, criminal charges include everything from felonies to traffic violations, and ICE maintains the right to deport individuals prior to the conclusion of a criminal investigation or proper trial. Speakers emphasized that this blanket criteria, in conjunction with a persistent lack of due process in the treatment of individuals detained by ICE, has made many communities less rather than more secure, and has devastated many families across the country.


Organizers of the event explained that police-ICE collaboration undermines the relationship between immigrant communities and the authorities tasked with maintaining law and order. Trust is an integral part of the fabric that holds all communities together, and when federal policies lead to violations of this trust on a local level, solutions must be sought to address failures both nationally and within the area. In staging the rally outside the location where ICE hearings take place, and by acting in solidarity with the No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice tour to the Democratic National Convention, organizers attempted to do just that.


With a pending presidential election, immigration policy has become a volatile political issue. President Obama recently issued an executive order permitting qualifying undocumented youth to apply for “deferred action” as a component of his administration’s attempt to make the DREAM Act law. The event was in part an effort to support this policy and encourage other undocumented youth to make their struggle visible. Event organizers said that the objective is not only to change policy, but also to change social conditions so that vulnerable communities no longer live in fear of those who ought to protect them. Truly secure communities, they stressed, arise where members of those communities are integrated rather than alienated.


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