This afternoon, Donald Trump signed an executive order to end his administration's decision to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border. But, for the growing group of protesters gathered outside a regional US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Southwest Portland, that's not going to cut it.
"That doesn't effect our vigil," says Jacob Bureros, a spokesperson with Direct Action Alliance.
Trump's order allows children to stay with their parents while held in an ICE detention cell—but does little to decriminalize families seeking asylum.
"This isn't an end to the 'zero tolerance' policy," Bureros says. "This isn't an end to holding families in concentration camps."
The protest, dubbed "Occupy ICE PDX" online, began on Sunday, June 17, and has only grown in size since. Last night, hundreds of people gathered outside the facility to show their support—and dozens set up tents to spend the night. The occupation has forced ICE to close the regional office building today, citing "security concerns." In a media statement, the agency said its "normal operations will resume once security concerns have been addressed."
Judging by the growing momentum behind the ICE protest, that may take longer than a day.
Bureros says the protest doesn't plan on wrapping up until one of two things happens: Either ICE leaves Portland or the US upholds international asylum standards. The group is also called on the feds to offer mental health services to the hundreds children and families who've already been separated by ICE agents.
"Just because these children have been reunited with their families doesn't mean they don't have lifetime of trauma," says Bureros, who has children of his own.
According to Bureros and other members of the group, protesters have mostly been interacting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers—which oversees ICE—not city or county law enforcement. DHS allegedly arrested one man yesterday afternoon, after the group attempted to block an ICE vehicle from leaving the parking lot.
Officers from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) were called, however, to escort federal employees from the building to their cars last night.
"We're supposed to be a sanctuary city," Bureros says. "But [PPB] have absolutely been involved with protecting ICE."
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler addressed these concerns during a city council meeting this morning, calling the Trump administration's immigration policy an "abomination."
"I drove by the demonstration yesterday, and it seemed very peaceful," Wheeler said. "I want to be very clear: I do not want the Portland Police Bureau to be engaged or sucked into a conflict—particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track. If they're looking for a bail-out from this mayor, they're looking in the wrong place."
The Portland chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) penned a letter this afternoon to the Portland City Council with its own specific demands. The group asks the city withdraw from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (a controversial partnership between federal agents and city officials), fund legal defense services for undocumented immigrants (an initiative Comissioner Chloe Eudaly included in the city budget), and cease all cooperation with the DHS agents in arresting anyone at the Portland ICE protest.
Protesters will hold a general assembly meeting at 8:30 tonight. We'll be there. Follow Mercury reporter Kelly Kenoyer for updates.