Now hiring!
PHONE: 503.241.0035
333 SW 5th Ave. #525
Portland, OR 97204

Oregon activists pave the way for (actually) secure communities

The Federal Court’s April decision that the Clackamas County Sheriff violated the U.S. Constitution by detaining an Oregon women because of an ICE hold held repercussions for sheriff’s offices around the state. But that court decision, while influential, was not a singular event in Oregon’s fight against ICE detainers and the Secure Communities program.

Since the Obama administration established the Secure Communities program, it has been responsible for over 200,000 deportations, often of minor or non-offenders that were detained in cells for days before their deportation. 

Immediately after the program was established, Oregon activists noticed that sheriffs in Clackamas and Washington counties had implemented the Secure Communities program. In fact, in the first year of Secure Communities, over 600 people living in Oregon were detained by local enforcement. 

But Oregon fought back. In 2008, VOZ, Portland’s workers’ rights education project, joined with other Oregon organizations to create the Activists Coming Together for Safety and Justice Network. The Network implemented a series of community organizing projects, including a study using a robot to pull publicly available arrest information. The team held community meetings, film screenings and discussions, civil disobediences and rallies, and requested meetings with the sheriff.

Though it wasn’t until the recent federal court decision that the Clackamas and Multnomah county sheriffs stopped honoring ICE holds, the ACT network ensured that all Oregon sheriffs felt pressure from their communities to do something. That pressure, as well as the public visibility that the groups maintained, may have contributed to the widespread impact that the ruling had on Oregon sheriffs. Despite previous court rulings finding that ICE detainers were not mandatory for local agencies, the influence that the Clackamas County ruling had on other counties–and other states–was unprecedented. 

“In the end it was community pressure, a legal strategy and winning over the Multnomah County Commission chairwoman,” said VOZ co-founder Romo Sosa. We hit the sheriff from three different sides, so when it was ruled unconstitutional he had to fold.” 

To find out more about the Oregon activist groups, as well as what strategies they are using to continue social pressure on Oregon county sheriffs, read the full story on Waging NonViolence