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Ramon Valdez, Director Strategic Initiatives
BEND, OR – Innovation Law Lab filed today an emergency motion before the U.S. District Court of Oregon to prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from transporting members of the central Oregon community outside of the District Court’s jurisdiction after hundreds gathered to protest ICE arrests and block the unmarked vehicles from leaving Bend.
Throughout the day, families stood watch as their loved ones were held by ICE contractors in a closed-windowed van for hours in 80-degree weather. The families issued a statement read by Janet Llerandi-Gonzalez of Mecca Bend: “Consider the emotional trauma being inflicted not only on us as adults, but also on our children who witness this injustice. We are hard working members of the community that have lost our jobs due to COVID, and our husbands are put at risk daily. We are simply trying to provide for our families, but because of the color of our skin and because of our country of origin that does not justify what has happened here today.”
Pro bono attorneys with Innovation Law Lab, a Portland-based nonprofit organization dedicated to upholding the rights of immigrants and refugees, were on the ground to provide legal counsel but were denied access to abducted community members.
“It is a fundamental violation of their legal rights, and an unspeakable breach of community trust,” said Erin Carter, an attorney with Bend Immigration Group and volunteer with Innovation Law Lab. “I spoke with their wives, and their brave children who stepped forward and offered to interpret for their crying mothers. I placed my ear against the metal bus and strained to hear the men inside, while I shouted into the closed windows to inform them of their basic rights. They told me that ICE had attempted to coerce them into signing forms. Without a lawyer present.”
The group of protesters that grew throughout the day and into the evening included community members, faith leaders, and civil rights advocates who gathered outside the SpringHill Suites Hotel where the community members were kept inside unmarked vans.
“We won’t let our community members be taken from us. We will not abide the separation of families,” said Rev. Erika Spaet of Storydwelling and the statewide Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice. “Our faith, our conscience, our love of neighbor is seeing its full strength here today in Bend.”
Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell parked her personal vehicle in front of DHS’ unmarked vans, preventing them from exiting the hotel’s parking lot. She addressed reporters saying, “I am here because people are being picked off the streets and detained for the crime of wanting to work hard. These are good people who have immigrated to our country. We are right now trying to empty our jails and our prisons because they could be hotspots for COVID-19. The idea of my taxpayer money going towards harassing these individuals is intolerable.”
ICE has drawn public scrutiny in recent months due to its mishandling of the COVID pandemic and a refusal to follow CDC guidelines around masks and sanitation. COVID-19 poses a serious threat to immigrants held in crowded and unsanitary detention facilities.
“We will not stand by as the Trump administration pushes anti-immigrant, abusive policies in Oregon,” said Denise Piza, Oregon Ready coalition manager with Causa and former Madras City Councilor. “We applaud the people of Bend for standing up for their neighbors and protesting DHS’ retaliatory practices. An overwhelming majority of Oregonians voted to protect our sanctuary law in 2018, and today, they stood their ground to support their fellow community members in central Oregon. Ripping apart families has a deep, detrimental, and lasting impact on our communities. ICE’s cruel actions are contrary to Oregon’s welcoming spirit and commitment to equal rights under the law.”