Plainclothes agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, wearing jeans and t-shirts, have raided the Multnomah County Courthouse in the last two weeks, seizing at least three undocumented immigrants, according to reports gathered by the ACLU of Oregon.
On Friday, five agents arrived at a diversion program for people who had been charged with driving under the influence, according to Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon's legal director, who has been collecting accounts from defense attorneys, in effort to monitor President Donald Trump's policies.
Dos Santos says the number of people arrested remains unconfirmed. Defense lawyers tell WW the number is at least three people over the past two weeks, but is likely higher.
Several other defense attorneys tell WW that since November, ICE agents have been seen in the halls of the Multnomah County Courthouse, demanding names from minority people and taking custody of some people on their wanted lists.
These ICE tactics are not new. But Multnomah County public defenders say they've seen a rise in ICE arrests since Trump's election, and another spike in the past week.
A spokeswoman for ICE's Western Region said her office could not provide a cleared statement about arrest numbers until Monday.
Multnomah County officials, who held a press conference on Wednesday to restate their support for the county's sanctuary status, issued a statement on Saturday expressing concern at the raids but said they did not have evidence yet that this represented an uptick in the number of raids.
"Anything that increases the fear of people accessing our courts is of grave concern," reads the statement from the County Commissioners, Presiding Judge Nan Waller and Sheriff Mike Reese. "Courthouses need to be safe locations for people to access justice: whether to contest an eviction, seek a restraining order from abuse, or attend a custody hearing. Now, they may be too afraid to show up.
"This is devastating for the people accessing our services, and in many cases, counterproductive to a lawful community. We encourage ICE to recognize courthouses as sensitive locations and consider these impacts."
Raids were not unheard of under the Obama administration, but the location of this week's raids—inside the courthouse—was unusual, Dos Santos says.
In the past, agents would seize people outside the courthouse, says Dos Santos, and would target only those who were convicted and of serious crimes.
People who successfully complete an alcohol diversion program may never have a criminal conviction on their record.
The executive order signed by Trump targets anyone who is accused of a crime, not just those convicted, Dos Santos says.
"If folks are not able to access the criminal justice system, it's a blow to one of things our country holds most deal — the right to access the courts," Dos Santos says. "It's very troubling to me that ICE is going into our courts to apprehend people."
Correction: This story originally said half dozen people were arrested, and five people were arrested Friday. Lawyers tell WW the numbers are likely lower, although details of the raids remain scarce.
Here's the county's full statement.
MULTNOMAH COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, PRESIDING JUDGE, SHERIFF’S JOINT STATEMENT ON ICE ACTIVITIES AT MULTNOMAH COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Like many of you, late Friday we heard reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detaining people who come to the Multnomah County Circuit Court Courthouses.
We immediately reached out to court officials. In the past two weeks, there has been an increase in reports of ICE activity around – and in some cases inside – the courthouse. We do not yet know if there has been an actual increase.
Anything that increases the fear of people accessing our courts is of grave concern. Courthouses need to be safe locations for people to access justice: whether to contest an eviction, seek a restraining order from abuse, or attend a custody hearing. Now, they may be too afraid to show up.
This is devastating for the people accessing our services, and in many cases, counterproductive to a lawful community. We encourage ICE to recognize courthouses as sensitive locations and consider these impacts.
We can’t have people afraid to access justice in Multnomah County.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office does not give ICE officers access to areas of court facilities that are not open to the public, and does not permit ICE officers to maintain a presence in any County correctional facility. The Sheriff’s Office does not hold people in county jails on ICE detainers or conduct any immigration enforcement actions. The Board of County Commissioners formally recognized and supported this policy with a resolution on Dec. 22, 2016.
Please contact our offices with any information. And know that we are working to support the families in our community and to provide services to all those in need.