Responds to outcry over immigration enforcement
By Cari Hachmann/ The Portland Observer
Under pressure from activists of the immigrant and refugee community to stop honoring federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds in Multnomah County, Sheriff Dan Staton has responded in a written statement that he has heard the community outcry, but will continue to enforce the law as it is a mandatory regulation by the federal government.
The ACT Network, a coalition of faith leaders, community members and organizations dedicated to stopping ICE holds in Portland, argue the opposite, that local enforcement is voluntary.
Holding people who do not have legal proof of citizenship in jail for up to three days, whether that person is convicted of a crime or not, until federal officials can take those individuals to a detention center where they face deportation is a human rights issue, the ACT Network charges.
The activists say the deportation proceedings are separating families and detrimental to children left behind as their parents are deported. ICE holds criminalize people who are not criminals and breeds fear and distrust of law enforcement by immigrant communities, thereby putting the community’s safety at risk, they say.
Staton issued his statement one day following a city informational session on Immigration issues, where the sheriff’s public information officer Lt. Steve Alexander confirmed he met with concerned community group representatives, county commissioners and federal officials.
The sheriff said it is not up to his discretion to comply with federal immigration, or ICE, holds. “The regulation as written is mandatory, and despite disagreement from some members of the community I must follow the law and comply with immigration holds as prescribed by federal regulation.”
“I was not elected to interpret the law, I was elected to enforce the law, whether the law is popular or not, or whether I personally agree with it,” said Staton in the issued statement.
He said the sheriff’s office will remain in dialogue with the community and assess immigration laws in the event that federal law or regulations are changed or he is directed by the court to discontinue or suspend our current practices.
Activists say that sheriffs in Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Chicago have stopped honoring the ICE holds in order to keep their communities safer and families together, including California’s Attorney General who issued a legal memo earlier in December stating that ICE holds are not mandatory, but merely requests.
“Sheriff Staton continues to ignore the ACT Network and the community and is locking up many innocent people to fulfill the Federal government’s agenda,” local immigrant advocacy group VOZ stated in a recent press release.