Commissioners Pass Resolution Condemning Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

By Jennifer Hatton

Last week, Voz joined dozens of activists to support the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners as they passed a resolution condemning Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s(ICE) flawed deportation programs.

Photo by Douglas Yarrow

Photo by Douglas Yarrow

The resolution offered strong criticism of the “Secure Communities” program, or S-Comm, and laid out a path for moving forward by continuing to work with advocates.

Many at the hearing shared personal testimonials of the devastating effects of ICE’s deportation dragnet. Roberto Santiago, a single father, described how his wife was deported after mistakenly being accused of falsifying documents, leaving Roberto as the sole breadwinner of his family.

“Every day is really hard,” said Santiago. “I fear for the future of my family.”

S-Comm is a federal immigration enforcement program that came to Multnomah County in 2010. Since S-Comm was initiated, over 200 people have been deported from the county, the vast majority of whom committed no crime or were convicted only of minor offenses such as traffic crimes. The program has come under fire nationwide, with several localities, including Cook County and Santa Clara, choosing to opt-out.

Even worse, S-Comm and CAP undermine public safety throughout the county, as the perception of police officers as immigration enforcement officers has led entire communities to stop talking to the police. “People are scared,” says Francisco Aguirre, Assistant at the MLK Jr Worker Center. “When I came to Portland fifteen years ago, the community was vibrant. Now people are too afraid to drive their cars, talk to the police or even leave their homes.”

The Commission acknowledged the damaging effects of mistrust of law enforcement, and listed public safety as a priority. “Nothing hurts a community more than the residents’ fear of the local government,” said County Chairman Jeff Cogen, the resolution’s sponsor. “It’s time we stepped up to reinstall trust.”

Though the resolution indicates an important first step for the Commission, clear policy changes have yet to be determined. “This is only a first step”, said Romeo Sosa at the hearing. “We thank the County for their support and look forward to continued engagement on this issue.”

Those testifying in favor of passage of the resolution included members of the community and leaders from Activists Coming Together for Justice and Dignity (ACT), a network of faith, labor, immigrant, and civil liberties organizations. Voz is a member organization of ACT.

For more information on the hearing and on immigration enforcement programs in Multnomah County, visit