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¡RAZA SÍ! ¡MIGRA NO! Day Laborers Resist INS Raids
by Gareth M., Workers' Organizing Committee

At 6:00 every morning dozens of Latino immigrants stand on the corner of E Burnside and Grand, waiting for people to drive up and offer them a day's work. The employers include small businesses (construction, yard work, etc.), large companies and even government agencies. Most day laborers are homeless, working to scrape by on the street and to support their families back home. The work is usually the hard, dirty, unsafe type that most US. citizens would not do. Though some employers pay decent wages, many try to take advantage of a largely undocumented and non-English speaking work force by underpaying workers, giving them bad checks and failing to enforce safety standards. Harassment by police and drug dealers is an everyday occurrence.

Many (though not all) local business owners see the presence of the day laborers as a problem-- they don't like brown people hanging out on the street, scaring away their middle-America customers who think all brown-skinned people are drug dealers, gangsters or terrorists. Local businesses represented by Central Eastside Industrial Council have decided to make the "problem" go away by calling up the hired thugs of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

They didn't count on an organized response by the day laborers. With the assistance of the Workers' Organizing Committee (WOC), day laborers came up with a strategy of resistance. Having heard of an upcoming raid, volunteers from WOC's program "Migra Watch" showed up on the corner every morning for a week, armed with cameras. When La Migra (INS) arrived at 8 AM on Wednesday June 10, we were ready for them. Activists captured the faces of undercover INS officers on film and documented various human rights abuses. Many INS officers were in plainclothes and did not identify themselves. Others wore a confusing assortment of uniforms including INS uniforms, Border Patrol jackets with bullet-proof vests, and others that resembled FBI uniforms. Some drove up in a van with the name of a business on the side, trying to trick the workers into thinking they were employers. The business names were not registered in Oregon and the license plate numbers are suppressed at the DMV, meaning they were government vehicles. Some people were questioned about their immigration status, others were simply grabbed and roughed up. One INS officer punched a day laborer in the face and slammed him against a fence. About 50 people were stuffed into vans and deported. INS agents also threatened Migra Watch activists with arrest for photographing them.

INS raids at the corner are nothing new. Due to the Immigration Bill recently signed by Bill Clinton, the INS has had its budget doubled and is now allowed to work directly with other law enforcement agencies. They have been flexing their muscles ever since.

On May 14, a raid was launched as part of "Operation Northstar", a collaborative effort between the FBI, local police agencies and the INS. While the Oregonian and TV news described it as a "drug sting that netted over 35 people", they failed to mention that many more than 35 people were deported, most of whom were neither selling, buying, nor using drugs. As I and other eyewitnesses can testify, the sting targeted all brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people who were in downtown Portland at the time.

With only five days to organize, the day laborers and WOC pulled together a major protest against the INS on July 17. Two hundred people gathered on the corner at 7 AM, including day laborers, WOC activists and representatives from other organizations such as PCUN (a Northwest farmworkers' union), Jobs with Justice, American Friends Service Committee, Portland Industrial Workers of the World, Copwatch and the Archdiocese of Portland. Led by the courageous day laborers, we marched to the INS building at 511 NW Broadway and shook its walls with spirited chants and speeches.

There has been another (smaller scale) raid since then, and Portland branch INS head Joe Shaffer has promised more. The Workers' Organizing Committee is collaborating with the immigrant rights coalition CAUSA '98 to pressure politicians to investigate INS abuses and to declare Portland an INS-free zone. This was recently achieved in Marion County, where a year long campaign by the Latino group Mano a Mano resulted in promises from county agencies to refuse to co-operate with the INS. We have a letter-writing and petition campaign targeting the INS. The presence of video cameras also discourages the agents from being as violent and abusive as they might be otherwise. This is something that should especially interest Copwatch activists.

For information on Migra Watch and how you can help, contact Lucy Bernard at Workers' Organizing Committee.

Call (503) 284-3856, fax (503) 284-4254 or write PO Box 12292, Portland, OR 97212 [ed 2023: contact VOZ Portland for information on how you can help]. [Photos from WOC.]

  [People's Police Report]

August, 1997
Also in PPR #12

Chief Undoes Council Misconduct Vote
Police Shootings, Shootings of Police
 • 18 Years: One Dead Cop, 100s of Dead Workers
 • What is a Hero?

Drug-Free Zones Modified
Day Laborers Resist Immigration Raids
Sheriff Wants Double-Bunking in Jail
Eugene Cops Attack Peaceful Tree-Sit
Updates PPR #12:
 • Beanbag Bullets Now on the Beat
 • Special Duty
 • Pepper Spray to be Banned in Berkeley?
 • Cop-Friendly Capitalism
 • Police Spying Update (again!)
 • Hawthorne Copwatching Update
 • Grant to Copwatch: Update

Report: National Conference in Phillie
Quick Flashes PPR #12:
 • Slap on the Wrist for Rapist Cop
 • Sacramento Cops Target Zapatista Supporters
 • ACLU Updates Police Abuse Manual
 • Portland Copwatch in Media, at Conference

Reviews of 'Zines
Rapping Back #12

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #12 Table of Contents
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