PORTLAND, Ore. – As federal police crack down on a protest at an unassuming immigration office in Southwest Portland, the encampment is gaining national attention as a fevered example of the clash between the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and critics who say the president’s policies are inhumane.
This is what we know about the Occupy ICE PDX protest and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Portland.
What’s happened so far
The Occupy ICE PDX protest at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holding facility began on Tuesday, June 19. On Wednesday, ICE closed the office on Southwest Macadam Avenue amid security concerns, as protesters blocked employees from leaving the parking lots.
On Monday, June 25, the U.S. Attorney for Oregon gave individual protesters notices to vacate the property, and threatened to arrest anyone who continued to block entrances and driveways.
In turn, protesters called for more people to join them.
On June 28, federal police cleared entrances to the ICE building and arrested nine protesters.
On Monday, July 2, the office reopened on a modified status, an ICE spokeswoman told KGW. The building resumed normal operations on Tuesday, July 3 -- two weeks after protesters first camped out.
On Monday, July 9, federal agents arrested three protesters. One was arrested in the morning for breaking the barrier between police and protesters. Two more were arrested that afternoon during an incident when federal agents entered the protest camp.
On Wednesday, July 11, eight protesters were arrested after several people linked arms and blocked the driveway to the ICE holding facility.
Who is Occupy ICE PDX?
Occupy ICE PDX is primarily made up of Portland-area activists. The group is demonstrating against Trump’s immigration policies and ICE, the federal immigration enforcement agency that carries out the policies.
The Occupy ICE movement takes its name from the Occupy Wall Street protests that erupted in New York during the financial recession in 2011. The Occupy Wall Street movement quickly spread to cities nationwide, with protesters shortening their monikers to just "Occupy," followed by the city name.
Occupy ICE PDX inspired similar protests around the country.
Occupy ICE PDX was the first protest group to effectively shutter an ICE office. Organizers called for protesters elsewhere to follow their lead. The goal, they say, is to shut down ICE permanently.
“We are organized, we are ready, we are here to stay until ICE is abolished,” Occupy ICE PDX said on its Facebook page.
The movement has spread. Protesters in Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago and New York have started Occupy ICE protests.
What are demonstrators protesting?
In April, the Trump administration began separating many families of undocumented immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of its “zero-tolerance” policy, delivering on Trump’s promise to ramp up efforts to stop illegal immigration.
The administration started criminally prosecuting every undocumented immigrant who crossed the border illegally, and detaining some asylum seekers even though seeking asylum at the border is not a crime.
Federal law does not allow children to be detained in restrictive detention facilities for long periods of time, so the children were taken from their families and sent to separate facilities.
Nearly 3,000 children were separated from their families during a two-month period, according to federal reports, before Trump signed an executive order halting his administration’s policy of family separation. The president remains committed to the immigration crackdown, however, and many of the children who were taken from their families remain separated and in federal custody.
The immigration policies are enforced by ICE, a federal agency that was created in 2002 with the intent of protecting national security and public safety following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The president said cracking down on immigration at the border keeps Americans safe. The policies are popular among many of the president’s supporters.
“We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country,” he tweeted. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came.”
Occupy ICE PDX is calling for reunification for all families who were separated under the zero-tolerance policy, and the dissolution of ICE as a federal agency.
What happens at the ICE facility in Portland?
The ICE facility on Southwest Macadam Avenue is a holding facility. Immigrants who are detained in the Portland area are held at the facility before being transported to other longer-term facilities, such as ICE’s Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, which has capacity for 1,575 detainees.
Detainees are usually held at the Portland facility for less than a day, according to TRAC Immigration.
Are there immigration detainees in Oregon?
Yes. The NORCOR county jail in The Dalles has contracted with ICE to hold immigration detainees for federal agents. ICE has a federal facility in Tacoma, Wash. The agency said it utilizes the Oregon jails to help with overflow.
Springfield and Josephine County also had contracts with ICE to hold a handful of detainees. However, those counties recently ended their contracts with ICE.
A federal prison in Sheridan, Ore. is also currently holding immigration detainees, including at one point 123 men who were detained after seeking asylum. Some of those men were separated from their children at the border.
The detainees said they had been denied access to lawyers and clergy. In June, a judge ordered the prison to provide access to attorneys.
Undocumented children, including at least four kids who were separated from their parents, are also in the Portland area. Two shelter facilities run by the nonprofit Morrison Child and Family Services, are holding undocumented kids.