Session with Multnomah County sheriff on ICE holds delayed again

by Melanie Davis
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  By Richard Jones, El Hispanic News Portland, OR — When the Multnomah County jail is filled to overflowing, who gets back on the streets and who stays in jail? Members of several local organizations think that too many dangerous felons get to smell the fresh air of freedom while undocumented immigrants who were looking for jobs have to cool their heels in the county jail.
Dan Staton
On a mid-December afternoon about 30 people crowded into the anteroom of the sheriff’s office expecting to share their thoughts with Sheriff Dan Staton. The visitors included some members of ACT Network, Oregon DreamActivist, VOZ Workers Rights Education Project, Jobs with Justice, Causa Oregon, Oregon New Sanctuary Movement, Oregon ACLU, Immigrant Law Group, American Friends Service Committee, PCASC, and Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO), as well as undocumented families and supporters. Staton did not make an appearance, but two staff members listened to the group’s comments. After the talks, Marco Mejía registered mild surprise at Staton’s absence. Mejía said that three hours earlier Staton had agreed to be present in the sheriff’s office to listen to public comments. Another petitioner said that Staton had been a no-show at another session the previous week. Mejia asked Staton’s representatives for a “date certain†meeting in January and the sooner the better. In a press release, CIO board member Nicole Brown stated, “The ACT Network has been waiting since July 2012 for a response from the Sheriff on his position on ICE holds.†Brown noted, “Los Angeles Sheriff [Leroy] Baca, formerly a staunch defender of his own policy to honor all ICE holds, announced that he would no longer be honoring ICE holds for low-level crimes.†She suggested that Staton should consider Baca’s decision. Brown implied that the sheriff had the discretion to decide whether or not to hold persons rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. In the hallway outside the sheriff’s office, Keith Bickford said that he had seen cases where deportation had split partners and families. Bickford, an officer in the sheriff’s department, said, “It’s a shame.†Before the group rode elevators to the third floor, a sextet serenaded passers-by on the first floor with slightly altered Christmas carols both in English and Spanish. “Silent Night†became “Human rights,†while “We Wish You a Merry Christmas†became “End all deportations — and end them right now.â€