On February 15th 2017, around 3 pm MA staff posted Facebook live videos of our encounter with an Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agent in North Portland. This video received widespread attention and feedback. In this video we referred to CBP activities as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities. We are issuing a statement to provide context for the video and also address some of the feedback we received. Below is our statement:
Momentum Alliance is a youth-led nonprofit whose mission is to inspire young people to realize their power individually and collectively and to mentor future social justice leaders. Momentum Alliance emerged in 2011 from the “Papers” Youth Crew -Portland youth who helped produce and organize the documentary film: “Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth.” From our founding to our current organizing, we have been for and by undocumented youth. We are deeply committed to advancing justice for immigrant communities. We are deeply connected to the vulnerabilities of undocumented communities. We know first hand the fear and the consequences of deportation.
On February 15th 2017 around 10am, MA staff Jaime Guzman witnessed homeland security vehicles parked along N Columbia Blvd in North Portland at Columbia Wool Scouring Mills. A few MA staff went to this location around 1 pm to check if homeland security was still present, when we drove by, the parking lot was full and had at least 3 homeland security vehicles. Around 2:45 pm, Jaime received a call from a community member stating that a friend’s brother had been stopped by ICE at the exact location where MA staff witnessed homeland security vehicles earlier in the morning. Upon receiving this news, Jaime called the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC)’s hotline to report this incident. After that most of the MA staff decided to head to that location to investigate, document and attempt to confirm whether or not there were ICE checkpoints, raids or something else happening.
On our way, Jaime was able to receive confirmation directly from the person. Jaime learned from the person that traffic was stopped on Columbia Blvd. so that vans with people in them could pull out the parking lot. While traffic was stopped, the person was approached by an officer who asked to see his identification and social security number. When the officer turned around he saw the ICE logo on the officer’s back. He attempted to record a video of what was going on but was told not to by the officer.
Upon arriving at Columbia Wool Scouring Mills around 3 pm., we noticed that all marked homeland security vehicles were gone. MA staff approached a few vehicles in the parking lot to interview people who might have witnessed homeland security’s presence. While doing this, we discovered that one of the cars in the parking lot was driven by an uniformed officer of CBP. At this point, we made the decision to go live on Facebook in order to document and publicize the interaction and to address rumors that ICE was in the area. As seen in the Facebook live video, MA staff attempted to question the officer about why they were in the area and whether not they asked people for their social security number cards.
The officer said, “ That would not be possible”.
Jaime asked, ”Are you border patrol?”
The officer responded “Customs and Border Protection.”
Jaime then asked “What do you store here [Columbia Wool Scouring Mills]?”
The officer then drove off. Immediately afterwards, we emailed the One Coalition email list seeking confirmation for rumors about an ICE checkpoint.
We intentionally publicized our investigation and interpretations of this incident through Facebook live in order to immediately inform and mobilize vulnerable communities. If there was in fact any activity by immigration agencies, we wanted to be able to immediately organize support for those impacted.
Three of the six MA staff members that were present are directly impacted by immigration agencies; two staff can be at risk of deportation; and another staff has family members who have been and continue to be at risk of deportation. All three of these staff grew up in Portland and have been active in organizing with undocumented communities. We will continue to support and follow the lead of those within the undocumented community.
Since publicizing this encounter with CBP, we have received widespread attention and feedback. In retrospect, we recognize that some things could have been done differently. For example, we repeatedly referred to CBP vehicles/officers as ICE vehicles/agents. We understand that Customs and Border Protections (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are different agencies that work closely together. That said, the undocumented community has been targeted and negatively impacted by both agencies. This and past experiences, led us to interpret these events as potential ICE activity, e.g. a checkpoint. Although we stand by our decision to use Facebook live, we recognize that we did not have to interpret and publicize these events as potential ICE activity.
Some people are appreciative of our first-hand grassroots reporting while others have valid reservations. Those who are appreciative believe that given the extreme uncertainty of the current political climate and the intense vulnerability of undocumented communities, any first-hand reports on immigration agency activities are useful. They feel that such reports are transparent, accessible, and timely. Those who have expressed reservations of our reporting felt that we should not have referred to CBP as ICE without further confirmation. We agree. We will not make that mistake in the future. Some also feel that reporting should only be done once designated civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations have been able to “confirm” CBP &/or ICE’s activity.
We will remain vigilant for any possible ICE activity and encourage our community to do the same. We refuse to let ICE continue terrorizing our community. We will fight back. Therefore, on February 27th we are organizing a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally led by the undocumented community. We invite any and all people in support of the undocumented community to join us. To learn more: bit.ly/MAoutoftheshadows. To report potential ICE raids or activities in Portland, Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC) has a 24 hour hotline: 1-888-622-1510.