Commentary from Sharon Bonn of St. Helens

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and initiated the joining in 2003 of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization, and U.S. Customs Service, now known as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

ICE spawned such programs as the Secure Communities Program, which was designed to gather information on noncitizens living within our borders. This information gathering was intended to increase protections for U.S. citizens.

Regrettably, it has eroded the constitutional rights of immigrants, producing distress and uncertainty in communities across the nation.

Since forming, ICE has sought the assistance of U.S. law enforcement in detaining immigrants based on the possibility they may have violated civil immigration laws. ICE accomplishes this by sending a Form I-247 to inform the law enforcement agency of ICE’s intent to take custody of the potential offender. From fiscal years 2012 and 2013, approximately half a million ICE holds were placed across the U.S.

Across the nation, the consequences of compliance with ICE holds are being discussed, giving rise to new state laws and city and county policies aimed at limiting compliance with ICE hold requests. Within Oregon, there have been many changes to the way law enforcement handles ICE hold requests. The majority of these changes have occurred since U.S. District Court Judge Janice Stewart’s ruling in April of this year, which held the Clackamas County’s Sheriff’s Office had violated Maria Miranda-Oliveras’ Fourth Amendment rights by extending her imprisonment solely on the basis of an ICE hold. Since Stewart’s decision, 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties now require that all constitutional obligations are met prior to execution of ICE hold requests. This is an excellent beginning.

Currently, Oregon law enforcement’s refusal to automatically comply with ICE hold requests is county specific and not mandatory. Enactment of a formal policy mandating that all constitutional requirements be met prior to compliance with ICE hold requests would create a set standard across Oregon. This would clarify the role law enforcement plays in administering ICE policies and reduce inconsistent applications of ICE policy. Erosion of the relationship between law enforcement and the immigrant community is another aspect of compliance with ICE policy that warrants examination.

When community members refrain from seeking services or reporting crimes because they fear detainment and possible deportation, public trust is eroded and relationships between law enforcement and community suffer. As of 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reports 9.8 percent of Oregon’s population is comprised of immigrants, of which 12 percent are Latino. Couple this with a 2011 study which discovered, that while Latinos represent only 77 percent of undocumented immigrants, they make up 93 percent of ICE detainees, and these fears of detainment and deportation seem more than valid.

Consistency of application and the impact ICE detainers have had on Oregon’s immigrant community are only two of several reasons a statewide policy would benefit Oregonians. One need only Google “ICE holds” to realize the impact recent policy changes have made, and that many states are taking a page from Oregon’s policy book and following suit.

Sharon Bonn is a St. Helens resident.

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