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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MAX Deportation Story Plugged at Council Meeting

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Showing that someone reads the Mercury, a handful of social justice activists showed up at City Council this morning to remind commissioners about a story we ran several weeks ago, about how dodging fare on the MAX has led, according to an immigration attorney, a disturbingly high number of deportation cases.

The cases stem from an anti-illegal immigration strategy called "Secure Communities," a collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and local law enforcement agencies that's spreading to cities throughout the country. The crackdown is supposed to focus on "high-risk" immigrants convicted of serious crimes, but very often in Multnomah County, those detained have committed only minor crimes or done nothing at all.

"In perspective, it is the best transportation system on the planet," Dave Magin said of TriMet. "But I'm worried. I see that as a misuse of their authority."

Added Melissa Saraba, a Portland State student who spoke next: "There cannot exist two different sets of laws"—calling it unfair that for most fare dodgers wind up with a fine, while immigrants can wind up arrested and on a fast-track away from their families. "When is it OK to have two different kinds of punishment?"

The testimony, unlike a lot of what's uttered by citizens before council meetings really get started, seemed to touch a few commissioners. Amanda Fritz mentioned that the city's Office of Human Relations had been tracking the issue. And Mayor Sam Adams promised to "follow up and take a look at it."

Although he confessed that he hadn't seen the article the first time around.

"I'm obviously behind on my newspaper reading."

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