Immigration Posts

Oregon Activists at the Heart of Fight to End ICE Holds

A federal court ruling in Oregon this month makes it clear that local sheriffs and law enforcement officials are under no obligation to hold immigrants in their jails at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While the fight was waged in court,  it was activists in Oregon and across the country who made the ground ready for change.  Our partner, the Center for Intercultural Organizing was at the heart of the effort.  Nicole Brown shares her story.

By Nicole Brown

Center for Intercultural Organizing

Last week when I received a call from Multnomah County Chair Marissa Madrigal and then from Sheriff Daniel Staton, I wondered if the sheriff might finally be reconsidering his policy on holding immigrants in jail at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

But I never could have anticipated this conversation – or what followed.

Sounding unusually cheerful when I returned his call, Sheriff Staton told me he would soon announce that his office in Multnomah County, along with sheriffs in Washington, and Clackamas counties would all be opting out of ICE holds.

He said no one had been certain about what the law really was, so for years, law enforcement simply cooperated with ICE agents. But now, a federal court ruling made it perfectly clear that holding someone in jail extra time because of an ICE request is against the law.

Within days, 17 counties in Oregon announced they would no longer collaborate with ICE. Now cities and counties in other states are making similar announcements.

The practice of honoring ICE holds has torn thousands of families apart, and led to some 2.3 million deportations since 2008.

Multnomah County Sheriff Daniel Staton

Multnomah County Sheriff Daniel Staton

And while it was the ruling of a federal judge that ultimately pushed sheriffs across Oregon to change their policies, it was the activists throughout the state and across the country who made the ground ready for the change. For years, organizers and brave community members have fought to show that ICE holds are not mandatory.

Federal Court Judge Janice Stewart’s decision in Oregon will have national implications. This is a critical time, with momentum building, for legal groups and community organizations to come together to pursue a strategy so courts across the country can continue to affirm that ICE holds violate constitutional rights.

Oregon’s success was the result of strong partnerships that were built across diverse groups of advocates. While lawyers waged the fight in the courts, organizers and community members can begin important conversations with their sheriffs and commissioners in their communities.

Sheriffs need to be ready to make the change, whether or not it comes at the direction of the court – and only the community can make that happen.

For years, jails across the country have been used to detain immigrants solely for the purpose of assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deportation. This collaboration has been conducted through an information-sharing surveillance system called Secure Communities that alerts ICE every time a potentially “deportable” person gets booked in a local jail.

The Secure Communities system triggers a detainer request, known as an “ICE hold,” on that person for a minimum of 48 hours after their charges are cleared. Detainers usually last far longer than 48 hours. Those under an ICE hold are not allowed to post bail.

ICE holds are not mandatory, despite what many think, and a movement has grown across the country to opt-out of them.

In the recent court case, Maria Miranda-Olivares was kept in custody by the Clackamas County Sheriff after her charges had been resolved because ICE issued a detainer request to the sheriff’s office. She sued Clackamas County for violation of her constitutional rights.

Stewart agreed that Miranda-Olivares’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the County incarcerated her without probable cause based on ICE’s request to detain her. Because Clackamas County violated her constitutional rights, they will have to pay her.

The court decision spurred the announcement from sheriffs in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties that they no longer would be holding folks for extra time in jails solely because of an ICE hold. Once the first three counties made the announcement, sheriff after sheriff followed suit, each announcing that they too would also be opting out of ICE holds.

As a member of the Activists Coming Together (ACT) Network, the Center for Intercultural Organizing has worked hard to convince our local jails to stop honoring ICE holds, and to keep our families together. We are worker and immigrant rights groups, civil rights advocates, lawyers, and faith leaders.

In November 2012, I took a key role facilitating coordination and communication in the ACT Network. We began to pressure the Sheriff Staton and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) in 2012. We created pressure through resolutions at the Multnomah County Commission, with community education, and with direct action.

In March last year, in response to community pressure, Staton announced that he would no longer honor holds for people charged with very low level crimes.

It was a step in the right direction, but we knew that the move was not sufficient for keeping our communities safe, or rebuilding trust in law enforcement. We continued to pressure MCSO to expand its policy.

I became a designated contact for communication with the sheriffs’ office. We continued to organize around specific deportation cases in order to highlight the inadequacy of the policy. Throughout, we built relationships with the Multnomah County commissioners and our congressional delegates for their support, and informed the media of unjust deportation cases.

We also began to organize a statewide strategy, and began to meet with the Washington County sheriff about the issue.

After the court decision, it was astounding to see county after county announce that they too would stop honoring ICE holds. Now sheriffs in Clackamas, Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman Wasco, Washington, Wheeler, Yamhill, and Lane counties have announced they will no longer be honoring ICE holds.

We can expect to see these announcements continue throughout Oregon – and the court decision is expected to have effect across the country. Oregon will be a more just place for all, a place where immigrants and refugees can feel safe calling the police if they are victims of crime and families can stay together.

Nicole Brown is the field director for the Center for Intercultural Organizing.







No More Delays, Two Million is Too Many

Krista brighter 2 millionDelaying defense is one of the oldest tactics of war. It’s as much a psychological one as it is strategic. The goal is to wear down the opposition until they become weak, hungry or distracted. Our immigrant rights movement hasn’t been immune to it.

Now there is no longer time for delay: two million deportations is a clear message and a rallying cry that we cannot and will not be ignored.

The immigrant reform movement built great power during the electoral battle of 2012, vast armies of strong, fearless leaders were created as we went door-to-door registering people to vote. Continue reading »

The Fight for Citizenship and the Right to a Future

The fight for fair and humane immigration reform is about respecting the dignity and humanity of all immigrants across the U.S. It is a fight for family unity. But this fight is also about the evolving definition of citizenship.

CitizenshipCitizenship is a guarantee against deportation; a protection against fear and reprisals. Any immigrant, regardless of status, can be deported – whether they are undocumented, a permanent resident with children who are U.S. citizens, or married to a U.S. citizen. Even a minor mistake on your application for citizenship can jeopardize your status in the country and launch you into deportation proceedings.

Providing a meaningful pathway to citizenship means guaranteeing a predictable route – and a future – for those who want to become citizens. To have citizenship in the U.S. means that you get to be a full human – with full rights. Being a citizen means that you can vote.

So let’s be blunt, voting is the real problem.
Continue reading »

Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants Strengthens Families and the Economy

Across the nation, families, business owners, and police officers are calling on lawmakers to bring fairness to all in need of driver’s licenses – an item that many simply take for granted as an award for learning the rules of the road.

Drivers license copyBut for millions of undocumented residents throughout the U.S., the denial of this basic driving privilege has stifled their way of life.

Regardless of citizenship status, all can agree that daily activities require driving. Basic tasks like getting to and from medical care facilities, taking or picking up children from school, participating in family curricular activities, and traveling to and from work, unduly burdens the unlicensed. It also strains states’ limited financial resources.

Denying driver’s licenses to undocumented residents is a law that creates more harm than good and it needs to be changed.
Continue reading »

Stronger Together: Rural Communities Ready for Immigration Reform

Last fall, in the final push to convince legislators to pass immigration reform – voices that had so far been quiet, spoke up. They were dairymen, potato growers, and ranchers and business owners. They are the voices of rural America.Fernando immigration photo

Small towns and rural communities are the heart and soul of our country. They are the places where many of us grew up; the places where we formed our values and learned about the importance of family and relationships.

Families are at the heart of the push to fix our broken immigration system, this is something rural communities understand well. Continue reading »

The Symposium in Review: #CellBlocks and #Borderstops… #Human Beings

Re-Posted from the Institute for Pragmatic Practice (

In the last four decades, mass incarceration and immigration control in the United States has skyrocketed. Our nation has become an engine thatIPPImage pulls people from their communities, removing them from the very fabric that gives them their humanity. Over-policing of everyday lives has made the simple act of walking down one’s street a criminal act. The criminalization of communities is evermore presenting itself as a system of violence against them.

The Institute for Pragmatic Practice held an incredible symposium October 17-18, that brought voice to those affected by incarceration.  Cell Blocks and Border Stops: Transformation in the age of dehumanization brought faces to those who have been invisible behind walls and in communities that are left behind. Continue reading »

Alliance Cross Training is Vital to Growing the Grassroots

(Post written by Alain Nahimana, posted online by David Fleishman)

Sharing resources between organizations includes putting people on the ground, side-by-side.

It gave me a sense that whether the work we do is statewide or on a federal level, the challenges we face are the same. My name is Alain Nahimana and I am an organizer with Maine People’s Alliance.  A community organizer can work in all environments, not only in his/her comIMG_0283.JPGmunity.

I was joined by a MPA member Sonia Irambona and Grady Burns, canvasser. The three of us were set down in some of Virginia’s toughest turf to canvass for immigration reform. Harold Folley of Virginia Organizing even made sure we had the number for the police handy. These were towns considered hostile, right in the middle of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district. (Virginia’s 7th District) Continue reading »

Delaying the Vote in Immigration Reform Has Not Silenced the Movement

We have the votes. Supporters of immigration reform in the House of Representatives have said it on many occasions, even before the Congressional recess, that the votes exist in the House to pass immigration reform.

Delaying the vote seems to be the House opposition’s approach to waiting for the immigration reform movement to divide itself, disengage from the efforts, or even disperse. Continue reading »

Risking Personal Freedom for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Marco Saavedra sacrificed his own freedom to demand the immediate release of the low-priority detainees found in detention centers across the country whom could be spared from deportation simply by applying prosecutorial discretion.  He is right.  Not only will releasing non-criminal to low-level offenders reunite families, it will save the United States

Marco Saavedra

a ton of money.

In July 2012, Mr. Saavedra took bold and heroic actions as he and his team of freedom fighters was intentionally detained to shed light on the shortcomings of the newly implemented

Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, commonly termed, the “Dream Act.”  Continue reading »

100 Women Arrested in DC to Demand Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Pressure is intensifying on the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive immigration bill this October that includes a clear pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The action, led by We Belong Together, brought hundreds of people from across the country to increase pressure on the House and re energize the movement for a national day of action on October 5th. We Belong together Action 4 Throughout the country, tens of thousands of Americans and Aspiring Americans will take their voices to the streets, to their representatives and to their neighbors calling for comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform. Continue reading »

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