The ACLU of Oregon filed a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday for records that might reveal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tactics for arresting immigrants in or near Oregon courthouses.
The request follows a controversial Washington County encounter caught on camera last month by a legal observer, in which unidentified ICE agents in plain clothes approach a man and his wife and demand to see his identifying documents. The ACLU of Oregon strongly condemned the strategy of targeting people in or near courthouses.
Opponents of the federal immigration agency's strategy, including some Oregon judges, say that ICE's presence in the courthouse will deter people from showing up for hearings, which can hamstring the justice system.
"Oregonians deserve to know more about how ICE is operating in our communities, and in particular, around our courthouses," says Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon, in a statement. "We submitted this FOIA request so that we can learn more about how ICE is using racial profiling to make arrests in Oregon and how they are operating in and around our courts."
When ICE first confirmed that it was arresting people at Oregon courthouses, the agency released a statement justifying the practice. The agency said that because Multnomah County does not cooperate with federal immigration agents "and because many of the agency's arrest targets provide false address information, locating these individuals at a courthouse is, in some instances, the agency's only likely means of affecting their capture."
ICE's increasingly aggressive tactics have worried advocates in Portland, which prides itself on being a so-called sanctuary city. The sanctuary status means that local officials and city agencies do not use resources to enforce federal immigration laws.
In response to an inquiry from WW about arrest tactics, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley says detaining undocumented immigrants at or near courthouses reduces the danger to bystanders.
"When ICE officers have to go out into the community to proactively locate these criminal aliens, regardless of the precautions they take, it needlessly puts our personnel and potentially innocent bystanders in harm's way," Haley says in a prepared statement. "Because courthouse visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband, the safety risks for the arresting officers and for the arrestee inside such a facility are substantially diminished."