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Rumors Of Immigration Raids In Oregon Create Panic Among Immigrant Community


Spanish version (Versión en español): Rumores Acerca De Redadas De Inmigración En Oregon, Crea Pánico Entre La Comunidad Inmigrante

Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, say they arrested more than 680 people last week in a series of operations in major cities.

None of those raids appear to have taken place in Oregon. But as President Donald Trump moves to make good on his immigration campaign promises, fear and rumors are rippling through Oregon’s Latino communities.

The president was clear during his campaign: He planned to crack down on illegal immigration.

“We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers, within ICE I am going to create a new deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice,” Trump said.

In the past few weeks, increased ICE activity has led to a new wave of fear — and rumors. A shooting investigation in Southeast Portland triggered a false alarm about an immigration raid. Rumors about ICE officers targeting bus riders in Portland circulated on Twitter.

Mexican citizens who had appointments at the Mexican consulate in downtown Portland said they had seen ICE agents questioning people as they were exiting the building. And in Woodburn, more reports of immigrant roundups spread.

A Latino construction worker said that all the rumors are mainly affecting his children. He did not want to be identified by name because of his immigration status.

“My kids think that in any moment we will be arrested by ICE and they do not know who they are going to stay with,” the man said in Spanish.

The man also said that he thinks Trump is being cruel to people like him, immigrants without criminal records who came to the U.S. seeking economic opportunity.

“I work 12 to 15 hours per day, we came to work, we don’t do wrong to nobody, we are not criminals,” said the construction worker.

A Latino waiter in downtown Portland who also did not want to be identified, said that anxiety is causing many of his acquaintances to change their behavior. They’re afraid to go to the courthouse, take the bus or walk downtown. Some are even taking more drastic measures, such as selling their belongings in case they suddenly have to leave the country.

“I have coworkers who are selling their car, for concerns of having a legal problem,” said the waiter.

As tension increases, immigrant coalitions are working together to address fears of deportation. Pedro Sosa from the American Friends Service Committee urges anyone tempted to share information about ICE activity on social media to first verify the information.

“People call us and we ask them, ‘Who told you? Did you see that?’ And they say, ‘No, somebody else told me.’ And that’s when we see it’s not real, the ICE activity in the community,” Sosa said.

In a written statement, ICE officials said they are not carrying out “raids in Oregon as the rumors suggest.” The agency said it is doing regular selective operations to detain foreigners who may be deported.

Sosa believes that more than ever it is important that everyone — regardless of their immigration status — know their rights under the Constitution.

“If they don’t have anything, you have the right to not answer any questions, just give your name and your ID,” Sosa said. “If they ask you where you born, you don’t have to answer that, just tell them, I want to exercise my right to maintain silence, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects that right.”

Trump’s recent executive order prioritizes the deportation of immigrants with criminal records, a similar policy to the Obama administration. So far all the arrests confirmed by ICE in Oregon fall under the Trump administration priority.

However, Trump’s new guidelines expand the federal government’s deportation priorities. They now include people who have been charged with a crime but have not been sentenced.

According to Trump’s order, the Department of Homeland Security will prioritize the deportation of any immigrant who: 

  • Has been convicted of a crime.
  • Has been charged with a criminal offense, even though the case has not been settled.
  • Has committed an action constituting a criminal offense.
  • Has engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency.
  • Has abused a public benefit program.
  • Has a deportation order.
  • Or is a risk to public or national security, at the discretion of the immigration agent.

In addition to these priorities, DHS agents will focus on the deportable immigrants stipulated in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which includes persons who have committed: terrorism; espionage; sedition or betrayal of the country; domestic abuse or abuse of a minor; drugs trafficking or human trafficking; prostitution; and money laundering among others.

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