Openly defying President Donald Trump’s plans to step up deportations of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, several hundred of them and their supporters staged a rally Monday right next to a building of the federal immigration agency.
“We are undocumented, and we are unafraid,” protesters chanted at the rally, held in bone-chilling rain near downtown Portland, Oregon. Uniformed guards at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building kept an eye from behind windows on the peaceful protest, but they did not intervene. Some motorists driving by tooted their horns and gave thumbs-up in a show of support.
Speakers at the rally gave their names to the crowd and the media. Some said that while they are worried that this could bring them to the attention of ICE agents, they felt they had to speak out to dispel the climate of fear that has gripped the immigrant community in Oregon, where a few towns have a majority Latino population, and in much of the rest of the nation.
“I am very afraid,” Juan Avalos said in an interview. “But that’s the point today, coming out of the shadows. We will no longer be afraid, and this is the main point of the event.”
“We are students. We are brothers. We are people who are just trying to be someone in life,” he said.
Trump says deportations are needed to keep America safe, and that the priority is to get criminals out. But some of those with no criminal history, or minor infractions, are also being detained.
During the rally, one of the protesters was on the phone, being told there had been people detained in the last few days in Woodburn, a predominantly Latino town south of Portland.
On Feb.9, a Woodburn man, a father of two who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, was detained by ICE agents and sent to a detention center in Tacoma, Washington. ICE did not immediately confirm any additional detentions in Woodburn.
“We try to send a message to the ICE, to the government, to the whole administration, we are not criminals,” she said. “They are separating our families.”
Hannah Zaiv, a retired mental health counselor from Portland, held a sign saying “Let Them Stay” as she listed to the speakers.
“This is a country made for everyone,” she said. “The world should be made for everyone. Like John Lennon sang in ‘Imagine. Imagine there’s no countries.’”
ICE said in a statement that it “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference,” local TV channel KATU reported.
The station also carried on its website a statement from an unidentified spokesperson for the Oregon Republican Party saying “Illegal immigrants flaunting their illegality is the same as promoting anarchy.”