After a heated and emotional hour of personal testimony — ranging from home-wrecking deportation stories to confessions of living in constant fear — the Board of County Commissioners eagerly passed a resolution reevaluating the relationship that the county sheriff's department has with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program.
The resolution aims to de-link ICE with the county incarceration system, a federally enforced relationship creepily dubbed "Secure Communities" that is in place in every Oregon county, along with a plethora of counties across the county. Community trust and financial stability were the two overarching reasons against Secure Communities brought up at the hearing.
"Nothing hurts a community more than the residents' fear of the local government," said resolution sponsor and Board Chair Jeff Cogen. "It's time we stepped up to install trust in our community."
One Hispanic father of two young daughters at the hearing explained the turmoil of losing his wife after DMV staff refused to accept her forms of identification, labeling them (falsely) false. He hasn't seen her since. Others noted that they faced deportation due to a simple traffic stop, some for no criminal reason at all.
"Multnomah County ought to be a place where people, regardless of their immigration status, feel safe to come forward and report crime, whether they are a victim, a witness or have knowledge of ongoing criminal activity," said Becky Straus, American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Director.
Following a range of testimonies, triggering tears in Commissioners and audience members alike, the room erupted in applause once Cogen formerly adopted the resolution. His closing comment: "Yay!"
Now, the board faces an undecided time period to "request ICE... to exercise prosecutorial discretion" and create a more open steam of communication with the county. Additionally, the board will work more closely with local advocates and organizations, such as the umbrella group ACT for Justice and Liberty and Causa Oregon to address immigration issues at the community level.
"This is the first step,"said Commissioner Deborah Kafoury. "You have our commitment."