An undocumented immigrant. A Muslim refugee. The daughter of an immigrant. Those who testified before Portland City Council his morning came with serious, life-changing concerns about how recent White House and US Supreme Court decisions will impact their future.
"I am undocumented. I am directly being affected by this," said Christian Calzada, addressing city commissioners. "So please, take action. Be brave. Use your privilege. Use your power."
Calzada and dozens of others concerned about Donald Trump's attitude about anyone who isn't white or Christian (or, let's be real, male) filled council chambers this morning, asking commissioners to protect Portlanders from a federal firestorm of bigotry and intolerance.
"I was so strong until yesterday, but I now feel so weak," said Jamal Dhar, a Somali Muslim refugee who immigrated to the US 20 years ago. He said the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Trump's travel ban on majority-Muslim countries has left him feeling hopeless.
For most who spoke, that starts with the city dropping out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the program that turns at least two Portland police officers into informants for the federal government, namely the FBI. That relationship also means officers can easily collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
"As someone from a Muslim family, I am begging you to withdraw from the JTTF," said Olivia Katbi Smith. "President Trump has made it clear he plans to target people based on their religion, national origin, and political beliefs. Portland cannot continue to participate in this task force without recognizing that you are complicit in whatever actions ICE and FBI are taking to harm these communities."
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said she's met with the FBI to learn more about the JTTF. Both she and Commissioner Amanda Fritz hinted their support at voting to withdraw from the task force and thanked those testifying for having the courage to speak up. Mayor Ted Wheeler was absent from today's council session.
While the mayor's office has said Portland is a sanctuary for refugees and undocumented citizens, and said "all are welcome here," and said it will fight back against the Trump administration—it seems Portlanders are ready to see those words in action.
"I'm watching the country that I immigrated to fall apart in front of me. The only thing we can do is act locally—and we need you to act locally," said Jacob Bureros, who immigrated to the US from the Philippines when he was 15. "We need you to take extraordinary measures. Not just walk the line, not just do the bare minimum. You have so much more power than all of us because you voice the collective power of Portland. Please voice our outrage, please step up."
Bureros is one of the hundreds of Portlanders who've spent the past week at the Occupy ICE protest that's positioned itself outside a regional ICE office building. For the past two days, federal police have been handing out flyers to people camped out at the protest, warning them of breaking federal laws.
In his testimony, Bureros acknowledged the protesters are breaking the law. But: "What about the crimes against humanity that the federal government is committing?"
"So many people are down there putting their life of the line," he continued. "They're getting threatened with federal charges, but what can we do? What other recourse do we have?"
Eudaly said she plans to meet with city attorneys to see if council can revoke ICE's permit to use the SW Macadam building—a local attempt to abolish ICE.
"ICE is not reasonable, compassionate, or enforceable," said Fritz, who immigrated from the United Kingdom decades ago.
Both Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Comissioner Nick Fish sat quietly throughout the testimony. Neither responded to the groups' concerns. Fritz politely reminded the room that "we will have a new commissioner in November."
June Schuman, a member of the city's New Portlander Commission, reminded commissioners that they have a change to right the wrongs made by commissioners before them.
"When people of Japanese descent were actively taken away from Portland 70 years ago, Portland City Council actively participated in the process, and good people remained silent," she said. "Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past. Let's get beyond the superficial pronouncements."