OPINION: Does ICE celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

Item: Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican national holiday. However, it is observed in the Mexican city of Puebla, which is where the Mexican Army defeated French soldiers in a battle toward freedom in 1862. Commercial liquor and food interests have created the U.S. semi-holiday.

By William Street

May fifth binds Mexicans and Americans as we celebrate and are reminded of the wealth of contributions made to our lives by Mexican and Hispanic culture (hot sauce, tequila, a passion for living, a lyrical language, a pace of living counter to our industrial get-it-done-yesterday approach, appreciation of family, and a deep spirituality, to name a few).

Yet on May fifth, as every other work day of the year, Hispanics residing in Clackamas County and throughout Oregon, both documented and unauthorized, are routinely subjected to harassment, detention, and deportation without access to the fundamental freedom of our legal system and culture: due process.

The ICE civil detainer warrant is NOT issued by an independent judge, no legal counsel is provided, and no day in court is provided. What is provided is a stay in for-profit detention center (62 percent of ICE detention centers are for-profit corporations). Congress mandated that at least 34,000 beds are used and paid for every night. Can you imagine any other circumstance where we require mandatory use of prison cells? ICE must fill 34,000 beds every night.

By treating all crimes as equal, our Hispanic neighbors can be deported because they crossed the border more than once. The very act of crossing the border is a crime. Oops. I meant the very act of crossing the Mexican border is a crime. It is not a crime to cross the Canadian-U.S. border. You can fly in from the UK, no visa required. For $14.00 we will let the French enter without a visa.

The question is not about securing our national borders. For 48 countries we automatically grant visas, almost no questions asked. Spain YES, Mexico NO. Portugal YES, Brazil NO. Why do we treat our Latino neighbors differently?

Last year we deported 151,833 immigrants who had no criminal record. We deported another 53,259 immigrants whose only crime was crossing the border. Another 47,249 were deported for traffic violations. So much for the treasured inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The reality of America and the idea of America have always been in conflict. Our industrial might for our first 100 plus years was fueled by slavery, codified into a document beginning with “We, the People….”

Our own county economy started by exploiting cultural differences between Clackamas tribal members and French traders working with the Hudson’s Bay Company. After we took their pelts, we stole their land, violated our treaties, and exposed them to disease for which they had no defense. (The southern border of Oregon was established by the Treaty of Limits with Mexico; Oregon’s northern border remained loosely defined until 1846.)

Recognizing the injustice we have done is only useful if we stop perpetuating it.

It is long past time for some of our elected officials and their staff to take ICE off of their speed dial setting.

It is long past time to allow ICE to violate due process and kidnap our neighbors when they go to the courthouse to file for divorce, get a temporary restraining order resulting from domestic violence, or get their children immunized.

We must either take these civic services to the community at risk or guarantee safe passage to and from the courthouse. It’s getting late, and ICE has to fill 34,000 prison beds by nightfall.


William Street is a retired trade unionist who lives in Gladstone. He is active in the Democratic Party.

Item: The Democratic Party of Clackamas County presented a resolution to Clackamas County Commissioners May 4 encouraging our local government to foster a spirit of total inclusion and wholly discourage and not support ICE activities on county property or with county funds.