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Isidro Andrade-Tafolla: '...ICE believed, because of the color of my skin, that I didn't belong here.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Isidro Andrade-Tafolla addresses a crowd of about 200 people gathered for a protest outside the Washington County Circuit Court in downtown Hillsboro in August 2019.When we walk out our front door and into the world, each and every one of us should feel safe in our community, whether we are walking down the street, running errands, or entering a public building.

It seems like a basic value, something we can all agree on. But our laws don't always offer that safety, even though we, and the people we elected to represent us, thought that they would.

On Sept. 18, 2017, I was accompanying my wife to the Washington County Courthouse when I was illegally detained by plainclothes federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. They didn't identify themselves while demanding to see my identification. Then they showed me a mugshot of a man and claimed that I was him. The only resemblance between me and the man in the photo is that he looks Latino, and so do I.

Read our Sept. 22, 2017, story on Isidro Andrade-Tafolla's encounter with federal immigration agents in Hillsboro.

I have lived in Washington County for over 25 years. I am a U.S. citizen. Yet, those agents made it clear that ICE believed, because of the color of my skin, that I didn't belong here. That day has left a painful mark on my life in the years since, making me feel unsafe in my own community. I'll never forget it.

Oregon has the oldest sanctuary law in the country, passed by the Legislature more than 30 years ago. Sanctuary laws are meant to protect the rights of immigrants, prevent racial profiling and build trust in communities by ensuring local resources are not used for federal immigration enforcement.

So why then does ICE regularly target immigrants at our courthouses? Why do local jails collaborate with ICE? Why are local law enforcement resources routinely used to assist with federal immigration enforcement? Why is my story more common than many Oregonians want to believe?

Read our Aug. 13, 2019, story on Isidro Andrade-Tafolla's lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 2018, Oregonians voted overwhelmingly to keep Oregon's sanctuary law, protecting people against unfair targeting, interrogation and detention simply because they are perceived to be without legal status.

Now, the Oregon Legislature has an opportunity to close the gap between the protection that Oregonians want and believe our laws provide, and what the reality is today.

During this legislative session, lawmakers can reaffirm our state's sanctuary status by passing the Sanctuary Promise Act. This bill would strengthen Oregon's sanctuary laws, prohibit warrantless arrests at Oregon's courthouses and prevent racial profiling. By embedding these protections in state law, we can begin to rebuild trust in local law enforcement and make communities safer for everyone.

My hope is that with the passage of the Sanctuary Promise Act, my children will never have to live through the trauma and fear I experienced on that day in 2017.

Time and again, Oregonians have shown that we value the safety of all our neighbors, no matter where we were born, what we look like or how we came here. Let's fix our laws so they align with those values.

Isidro Andrade-Tafolla is a Washington County employee and U.S. citizen. On his behalf, ACLU of Oregon and cooperating counsel Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton have filed a lawsuit in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for false and negligent arrest.

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