The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, July 20, 2019, Page A4, Image 4

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THE ASTORIAN • SATuRdAy, July 20, 2019
Founded in 1873
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ICE thumbs nose at local judge
mmigration and Customs
Enforcement agents pep-
per-spraying people in a Clat-
sop County Courthouse corridor
while sheriff’s deputies look on?
Is this really a situation anyone
should find acceptable?
The latest example of using the
courthouse as a hunting ground
happened Thursday. A defendant
accused of disgusting behavior —
but who remains innocent in the
eyes of the law and was not in state
custody — attended court for a rou-
tine hearing in preparation for an
eventual trial. In light of previous
ICE arrests there, family and sup-
porters escorted the defendant as he
departed. Federal agents moved in
and extracted the man by deploy-
ing a chemical spray and strong-
arm tactics.
A video appears to verify details
of the encounter between ICE
and the man’s nonviolent escort.
One person “was sprayed 3 times
in the eyes and in the mouth as
she informed the ICE agents they
needed a signed judicial warrant
to take our client then was sprayed
[less] than 3 inches away in the
mouth and eyes along with our sup-
porters,” according to a Thursday
social media posting by Stephanie
Serrano of Pacific County Immi-
grant Support.
Sheriff Tom Bergin was pro-
vided advance notice of the ICE
interdiction on county property.
In his view, those accompanying
the defendant are guilty of inter-
fering with a police officer. How-
ever, his belief apparently was not
strong enough to lead to arresting
AP Photo/Steve Helber
ICE agents detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va.
anyone and thus eventually testing
this legal theory with the prosecu-
tor’s office or local judges. District
Attorney Ron Brown said ICE’s
local action was legal, though “not
something we like to see at all.”
The optics of all this are appall-
ing. In normal times, ICE agents
involved in a brouhaha in the
legally sacrosanct precincts of a
county courthouse at least might
face professional discipline. Now-
adays, ICE rarely even pretends
to be accountable to citizen over-
sight, and the sheriff is certain to be
applauded within the echo chamber
of those who believe all undocu-
mented immigrants deserve imme-
diate deportation.
There are excellent reasons why
federal agents shouldn’t be allowed
to do what they did — reasons
that should be appreciated by all
Judge Paula Brownhill, the pre-
siding judge of the Clatsop County
Circuit Court, has said the practice
of detaining people near the court-
house can deter court appearances
and has a serious impact on the
administration of justice.
“Not only criminal defendants,
but civil litigants, crime victims,
and witnesses may be reluctant to
come to court for fear of encoun-
tering ICE,” Brownhill said after
an earlier ICE intervention. “If the
district attorney is unable to prove
a criminal case because an essen-
tial witness fails to appear, or a
domestic violence victim is unable
to obtain a protective order because
she is afraid to come to the court-
house, our community is less safe
for everyone.”
The U.S. probably has at least 10
million residents who lack official
right to be here. The vast major-
ity of these abide by our laws in
other respects and pay taxes in sup-
port of government services like
law enforcement. By scaring them
away from cooperation with our
judicial system, ICE is fostering
an underclass of millions who can
be victimized by criminals with-
out recourse, and who have little
incentive to take the risk of help-
ing root out those criminals. This
degrades all our neighborhoods —
not just those heavily populated by
In this case, ICE made an exam-
ple of a defendant who hardly any-
one would defend from impris-
onment and deportation if he is
convicted. But ICE’s ham-handed
arrest short-circuits the defendant’s
ability to clear his name, and the
state’s ability to prosecute him.
It is hard to see this latest ICE
arrest as anything other than a
deliberate provocation and thumb-
ing of the nose to Brownhill and
other judges who have spoken out.
This is a federal agency acting with
a steadfast belief in its own impu-
nity. Such an attitude ought to
deeply disturb every citizen who
believes in our own fundamental
civil liberties, states’ rights and the
rule of law.
Trump, America is not your house
ear Donald Trump:
Years ago, I got to visit Kweth-
luk, an Alaskan town of fewer than
900 souls. It is an isolated place where the
people, most of them Yup’ik and Eskimo,
live on what the tundra provides: ptarmi-
gan, moose, seal, salmonberries. I remem-
ber standing upon that snowbound land-
scape and marveling that
I was further than I’d ever
been from everything I’d
ever known.
It was a feeling I’d had
once before, at a village in
Niger. But this was differ-
ent, because I’d needed no
passport to get to Kweth-
luk. Though I stood in a
distant place with people
who did not look like me
and whose traditions were not like mine,
the marvel of it was that I was yet standing
with fellow citizens, together in our coun-
try. Because this was America, too.
I doubt you would have understood
that. Your vision of what makes an Ameri-
can is too niggardly and cramped to allow
Sunday, you offered superfluous proof
of that failing in a series of tweets where
you told four progressive congresswomen
of color to “go back” to their own coun-
tries and stop complaining about the
United States. The four women are all
American citizens. One, Rep. Ilhan Omar,
is an immigrant from Somalia. Rep.
Ayanna Pressley is a black woman born in
Cincinnati; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cor-
tez, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx; Rep.
Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American
from Detroit.
Not that those facts really matter. Simi-
larly, they are hardly the only ones to crit-
icize this country. You, for instance, have
called it “stupid,” “weak” and “pathetic.”
But that doesn’t matter either. Not to the
people to whom your tweets were directed.
It would be naive not to recognize that
you were performing for a particular audi-
ence: the racially resentful white peo-
ple of the GOP base. If the rest of us are
— as I was in Kwethluk — energized
and inspired by the vastness of America,
they are threatened by it and terrified of it.
Especially as representatives of that vast-
ness rise to positions of prominence and
You, like them, take for granted that
America is your house, a white house
where you make the rules, you set the
standards and the rest of us live only by
your sufferance. That’s the assumption
embedded in your tweets: that you have
the right to tell the rest of us to — apol-
ogies to the Beatles — “get back to you
where you once belonged.”
But this has never been just your house,
Donald, grandson of a German immigrant.
It belongs to all of us, to every Yup’ik in
Kwethluk, every Cuban in Miami, every
black boy in Compton, every Muslim in
Dearborn. We get to criticize it, we get to
love it, we get to fight with it, we get to
fight for it, because we built it. And we do
not need your permission.
“Go back where you came from?”
We’ve heard that one often. It is less an
expression of geographic reality — again,
three of the women you slurred were born
in the USA — than it is of white fear. The
notion that you live here on probation
if you are black or brown is one of rac-
ism’s oldest canards. And it was not sur-
prising to see members of your party offer
tepid rebukes of your behavior or none at
all, while stepping gingerly around the “r”
word like a body on the sidewalk.
American politics has never seen a
more chicken-hearted bunch.
But for all their cowardice, for all your
cynicism, for all the fear some white peo-
ple hold, you can count on the fact that
the rest of us will not be denied, deterred
or defeated. You are nothing we have not
seen before. And still we rise.
It would behoove you, then, to get over
the idea that this is your house and you can
order the rest of us to leave. If we can go
back where we came from, guess what?
So can you.
leonard Pitts is a columnist for The
Miami Herald.