Multnomah County

Occupying protesters close Portland ICE office

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Southwest Portland closed operations on Wednesday and Thursday as hundreds of people occupied the street outside the facility's front door. 

Protesters and even a Fifty Licks Ice Cream truck blocked the facility on Tuesday. "#OccupyICEPDX" trended on social media for the duration of the protest. 

ICE released this statement about the closure:

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE remains committed to immigration enforcement consistent with federal law and agency policy. The Federal Protective Service was called to the ICE office on Macadam Avenue Tuesday afternoon due to security concerns resulting from the ongoing protests at this location. Questions regarding arrests that took place should be directed to the Federal Protective Service. ICE operations at this location have been temporarily halted due to security concerns. Normal operations will resume once security concerns have been addressed.
 
“Appointments scheduled for Wednesday at the ICE office on Macadam Avenue have been canceled. ICE deportation officers will contact individuals who had scheduled appointments at this location to reschedule. These appointments will not be reported as missed check-ins.”

People from as far as Hermiston and Tacoma showed up to the facility on Wednesday, but due to the closure their appointments with ICE couldn't be met. 

The protests were sparked due in large part to the country's reaction to the Trump Administrations' zero-tolerance immigration stance. Videos and images of children of illegal immigrants separated from their parents at the American-Mexican border and held in detention facilities have recently gone viral.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will keep families together at the border, saying at the White House that he doesn't like the sight of children being separated from their families.

Trump said, "We are keeping families together."

But the president added the "zero tolerance" policy will continue.

People outside the ICE facility on Southwest Macadam were also protesting the 123 people currently held in a facility in Sheridan. ACLU of Oregon said those people are being denied legal counsel.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler weighed in on the occupy protests:

An ICE spokeswoman said the office will remain closed Thursday. ICE said officers will contact individuals to reschedule appointments. 

After one day of closures, one thing is certain: protesters don't plan to go anywhere. They're digging in with cooking stations, medical facilities and a human blockade.

"Although (ICE says) it's temporary, it won't be temporary," said Jacob Bureros With Direct Action Alliance on Wednesday.

During a press conference, Bureros also offered a list of demands before they end their occupation. 

"We demand that ICE no longer operates in this sanctuary city," Bureros said. 

Dozens of people also gathered at Terry Schrunk Plaza Wednesday evening, telling their stories and calling for action. 

For some like Sofia Velasquez, this is personal. She said with families being separated -- children torn from their families at the border and the impact and trauma that follows, is all too real. 

"Two years ago my dad was detained by ice," Velasquez told KOIN 6 News. "He was on his way to work. They basically just arrested him on the spot."

She said when it happened, she couldn't focus and ended up getting sick and failing her classes.

"It's all in the effects of having somebody from your family being taken away from you," she said. 

DACA recipient Alma Raya shared her story and a message for families to stay strong.

"I think that we have been told to be ashamed of our stories, to be ashamed of our background, to be ashamed of our status and I think because of that, a lot of people don't know what we're going through," Raya said.

Watch: A press conference outside the ICE facility in Southwest Portland

Warning: Graphic Language

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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