At around 8:10 AM on March 20th, INS agents drove a blue unmarked van up to the corner of East Burnside and Grand Ave, as if offering work. An agent opened the side door, and several workers approached and were beckoned into the vehicle. The plainclothes agents negotiated with the men for some yardwork. After sealing the deal, they drew their guns and badges as several INS vehicles surrounded the van. A few suspects fled. One was tackled by an INS officer and subsequently choked while Portland INS chief Joe Shaffer twisted his arms behind his back and handcuffed him.
Officers chased the second suspect into oncoming traffic, endangering the lives of drivers and passers-by. After agents apprehended and handcuffed the man, MigraWatch volunteers witnessed the officer applying pain holds to the man's fingers. The suspect repeatedly asked the agent to stop (in clear English), but he continued. A third suspect was held down and punched before being taken back to the van.
WOC organizer Gareth Miles was repeatedly threatened with arrest by INS officials for photographing what was taking place. Fortunately, Miles and other MigraWatchers are aware that such a threat has no legal basis; people have the legal right to observe and document the dealings of the INS and all other police as they carry out their normal business. After Miles continued to photograph the brutal goings-on, Shaffer threatened to sue him if the pictures were published. Shaffer later admitted to the threat, but claims he was "not serious."
Sometime between being put in the van and being unloaded at the INS detention center, one detainee had his nose bashed open. When questioned about this by the press, Shaffer claimed that the man had pounded his own face into the vehicle's steel window grating.
In total, the INS took eighteen people that day, and came back for five more the next. The majority have been deported, while several were released because they are either legal immigrants or citizens of this country. For these unfortunate people, being forcibly detained, harassed and physically abused are everyday worries simply because they are Latino. In Portland, the INS has almost exclusively targeted dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking people, even though there are large numbers of undocumented "aliens" from Asia and Europe. Clearly, the selective enforcement of immigration laws belies the fact that the law isn't what's being served here. The intimidation and brutality of the INS only keeps these workers from standing up for their rights and demanding fair treatment in society and in the workplace. For that, we all suffer; through depressed wages and the further erosion of our civil liberties.
WOC needs volunteers for MigraWatch! It requires only a two hour commitment in the morning. For more information call 284-3856.
The Portland Network for Immigrant RIghts (PNIR) is launching a campaign calling for non- compliance with the INS from local government. Such resolutions have already been implemented in Marion County and the city of Salem. The proposed ordinance would bar public employees (e.g., school, welfare and law enforcement officials) from checking the immigration status of people seeking their services, as well as ban the police from participating in raids with the INS. For more information contact Ramon Ramirez at PCUN, (503) 982- 0243.
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