Who’d have thought that my new home city Bend, Oregon ( now over 100,000) would make national news spotlighting protestors and ordinary citizens trying to stop ICE from snatching 2 Hispanic men and hiding out in a bus in the middle of a tourist area? Unreal as it seems that’s what happened starting yesterday in mid-afternoon. It reminded me one of those old Westerns when townsfolk dropped everything when they heard bad things were happening to their neighbours and rushed to try and confront the bad guys. In this case, the bad guys were clearly known and why ICE thought that they could justify this show of force in peaceful, sleepy Bend to arrest two Hispanic men coming and going from their workplace has yet to be explained. Certainly they terrorised their families who were comforted and sheltered by friends and community sympathisers. I was there watching this drama play out, waiting to see what the new Police Chief and his officers would protests do. Nothing as it turns out. Keep in mind that supposedly Bend is a Sanctuary City in the Sanctuary State of Oregon. But that didn’t stop ICE’s menacing presence. If you want to understand more clearly just how menacing, try watching the new Netflix 6-part documentary series “Immigration Nation.” Its directors Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz have gained extraordinary access to New York’s ICE squad. We see how the Trump Administration lit a fire under Homeland Securities to gets its ICE police officers out on the streets and tracking down and arresting not just immigrant hoodlums who needed to be rounded up and brought to justice but any and all undocumented illegal migrants who have no criminal records and are hard-working family men and women.
I’m well aware of how ICE has now potentially destroyed the life of an undocumented Mexican-American who is now fighting deportation in the Tacoma Detention Center. He had already been subjected to what many of us thought was a wrongful prosecution and had served a brief 5-day sentence in the county jail. Yet hours before he was to be released, someone tipped ICE that he was there. An hour before he was supposed to be set free and collected by his church pastor, ICE was waiting for him. That was 3 months ago, and he’s been in a Portland court and shuffled to detention centres in Oregon, Arizona, and now Washington. All of this happening during the Pandemic when inmates and detainees are at great risk. He awaits a hearing before an ICE panel that will determine whether he gets bail or is transported back to Mexico, away who knows for how long from his wife and children.
As for the two men taken yesterday by ICE, we have no idea what will happen to them. ICE only releases statements saying that they had “histories of violent behaviour.” But judging what has happened to my good friend in Tacoma, we have good reason to fear for their futures and their long term separation from their families.
Here is how Vice reporter Tess Owen describes what took place in Bend yesterday. (In full disclosure, I note that she is my daughter.)