The following was sent to Multnomah County Commissioners on February 27, 2012
To: Multnomah County Commissioners
501 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Suite 600
Portland, OR 97214-3587
Jeff Cogen, County Chair
RE: Upcoming Resolution calling on ICE to Exercise Prosecutorial Discretion
Dear Multnomah County Commissioners:
The Portland Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) supports the Multnomah County Resolution calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exercise prosecutorial discretion for its effort to address the negative impacts of the federal government’s Secure Communities Program and local police collaboration with ICE. Secure Communities (S-Comm), a federal mass deportation system, and similar programs do not accomplish their professed mission of keeping communities safer; instead, they have proven costly for our local community.
S-Comm does not make our neighborhoods or families safer. S-Comm is touted as a deportation system that only targets violent criminals who pose a threat to the broader community. However, ICE’s own statistics demonstrate that 77% of persons detained in Oregon were arrested for minor offenses (such as traffic violations), and 28% of those deported had no criminal record at all.
Instead, S-Comm drives us apart and makes us less safe. S-Comm increases fear of police, rather than facilitating cooperation in immigrant populations. Because of S-Comm, those who engage with law enforcement may be deported, effectively tearing their families apart. Rather than making us safer, S-Comm, and local law enforcement/ICE collaboration, makes members of immigrant communities reluctant to contact police in serious situations, such as reporting incidents of domestic violence or witnessing a crime.
S-Comm places the cost of federal immigration enforcement onto Multnomah County taxpayers. Although immigration enforcement is the federal government’s responsibility, S-Comm places the burden and cost of such enforcement on local municipalities and police departments.
ICE’s “detainers” are requests, not mandatory. ICE places “detainers” requesting local law enforcement detain individuals beyond their legal release date, wasting vital and limited resources while burdening local agencies and officers. These programs have the effect of rendering people otherwise eligible for bail release unable to gain release. The County should not honor these requests, as they may violate basic principles of due process.
S-Comm is fundamentally flawed, and needs to be reined in. We join the chorus urging the Commissioners to act on their pledge to work with community-based groups to save precious County resources, protect immigrant families, uphold constitutional due process protection, and restore public trust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community. We urge Commissioners change County policy to deny ICE detainer requests in County jails unless certain conditions are met.
Please pass this resolution as a first step towards creating a mechanism for oversight and accountability in a program that is dire need of it.
For a Better World,
National Lawyers Guild
Portland, Oregon Chapter
J. ASHLEE ALBIES
Co-Chair, Portland NLG Chapter
Treasurer, Portland NLG Chapter