A local pastor in Bend, Oregon and a school board member, asked this question, "Why is it happening?" on a webnair, bit.ly/2DTsoBX , sponsored by the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice which supports local congregations to become active in Immigrant Justice work. She urged us to ask and demand answers to "Why were Border Patrol agents in full riot gear showing up to break up a peaceful crowd protecting the two immigrants on an ICE bus? And they were so abundantly resourced, while our schools struggle to have enough money to educate the children? Why? Why? Why? "
Bend is a city of 97,000 people in Central Oregon. 93% of the population are white (2010 census). It is known for its outdoor life - most people travel there to ski in the winter and bike and kayak in the summer. However, the population is changing as many Latinx move here for jobs in the tourist industry or nearby farming and ranching.
On August 12, 2020, 2,000 people gathered to surround the bus where the two detained immigrants were held from 5:45AM on Wednesday morning until the arrival of the federal troops to break up the crowd surrounding the bus around 1AM. A local pastor organized the crowd to sit down when the federal troops arrive. It was a peaceful protest but clearly in opposition to ICE raids and detention of immigrants. "If this is allowable, how do we make it not allowable?" That is a question that many of us working for immigrant justice and racial justice, need to keep asking.
One of the organizers working with the local Diversity Council said, "We didn't show up as anti-federal troops or anti-ICE but because we are pro-family and two of our neighbors were picked up by ICE." The crowd changed repeatedly, "Let Them Go." A young boy crying pounded on the bus, saying "Papi, Papi."
An attorney who was in the crowd as a volunteer, expressed her frustration with the broken immigration system. "We work within the system while at the same time we are trying to change it."
Another local pastor shared that "the presence of so many in the crowd was an "act of solidarity of sacredness and the presence of love." So the question again, "why did the Border Patrol show up?" The Border Patrol supposedly had total authority within 100 miles of the northern and southern border of the United States. Bend, Oregon like Portland, Oregon where the Border Patrol Tactical Unit showed up to "protect the federal courthouse, is 374.2 miles from the Canadian border!
What can we do to protect our neighbors? First of all, Know Your Rights! Attorneys at the Bend ICE raid scene shouted out the rights all person have to the two men on the bus. We who are U.S. citizens need to know our rights as well.
Become active with your local immigrant rights group! Be prepared to show up - many communities have Rapid Response Teams prepared to act in case of an ICE raid. Join one and be prepared to show up! Write about what is happening in your community - send Letters to the Editor or write an OpEd piece.
Why the Border Patrol? Why did the local police not protect the peaceful protesters from the federal troops?
Demand answers from your local and state elected officials. And most importantly, this year VOTE! The immigration system will not change until there are enough courageous legislators willing to make the changes to ensure a fair and humane immigration system. Black Lives Matter and the call for major police reform is connected to the racist oppressive laws that keep people out of our country and then detain and deport them.
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?