by Jonathan Brier

Excerpted from CAUSA '98's "The State of Immigrants' Rights in Oregon: Backlash Against Latinos from September 1995-January 1997."
For copies of this report and more information on current anti-immigrant legislative and referendum activities, contact CAUSA '98 at
(503) 363-1895. To contact Foro de la Comunidad, a Latino-based police accountability project in Woodburn, call (503) 982-0243.
For a more comprehensive examination of anti-immigrant backlash and attacks on affirmative action in Oregon, contact the
American Friends Service Committee at 230-9427.

A recent report documents more than 140 human and civil rights violations against Latinos which occurred in Oregon over the last 18 months. The report was prepared by CAUSA '98, a statewide immigrants' rights coalition. The complaints involved police harassment, discrimination by schools and businesses, exploitation of workers, threats from individuals, abusive treatment from government agencies and denial of health care services. Such abuses should be understood as everyday realities rather than anomalies in the lives of Latino residents. Further, they should be collectively recognized as the latest resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment in modern Oregon history. At the same time, it is important to note the regularity with which Legal Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens (61% of the complainants) have been subject to the same human and civil rights violations that impact undocumented people in Oregon.

The largest component of the findings (31%) centers around abusive treatment by law enforcement personnel. These incidents have most often involved police officers demanding and/or seizing an individual's Green Card after pulling over their vehicle on account of a minor or nonexistent traffic violation. Enforcement of immigration law by local, state and/or county police violates Oregon Revised Statute 181.850, which specifically prohibits cooperation between law enforcement officers and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Several complaints described outrageous INS arrests and deportations in conjunction with police misconduct. For instance, in one incident, police entered and searched the home of a Legal Permanent Resident house without a search warrant. They arrested him for having a firearm with a permit and turned him over to the INS for deportation. In another incident, police threw a resident without legal documentation through a wall and refused him medical attention before delivering him to the INS for deportation. The INS abducted a political refugee when she attempted to renew her work visa, deported her that same day and, upon investigating her former residency, falsely informed her relatives that she was being held in Portland. Other types of complaints included police officers spraying mace on non- threatening individuals, frisking individuals for "looking suspicious," an injurious handcuffing, and locking up a juvenile suspect with adults.

CAUSA '98 offers four recommendations with respect to abusive law enforcement policies and conduct by officers:

1) No enforcement of Federal immigration laws by local law enforcement agencies: POLICE SHOULD STOP SEIZING RESIDENCE CARDS IMMEDIATELY;

2) Authentic civilian review boards should be implemented with adequate Latino and immigrant representation, in conjunction with Foro de la Comunidad and other community-based organizations. Prospects for civilian review boards to which INS enforcement officers would be accountable must be seriously investigated;

3) Policymakers should dedicate more public attention and resources to strengthening anti- discrimination and hate crime laws while supporting the creation of meaningful community policing programs and hate crime police units; and

4) Hate crime laws should include "Immigration Status" as a protected category, while legal information on how to report hate crimes should be made more readily available to the public.

Jonathan Brier is a research consultant to the Researching Justice '96 project.

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