Undocumented immigrants stage a rally by federal building

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Openly defying President Donald Trump's plans to step up deportations of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, several hundred of them and their supporters staged a rally Monday right next to a building of the federal immigration agency.

"We are undocumented, and we are unafraid," protesters chanted at the rally, held in bone-chilling rain near downtown Portland. Uniformed guards at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building kept an eye from behind windows on the peaceful protest, but they did not intervene. Some motorists driving by tooted their horns and gave thumbs-up in a show of support.

Speakers at the rally gave their names to the crowd and the media. Some said that while they are worried that this could bring them to the attention of ICE agents, they felt they had to speak out to dispel the climate of fear that has gripped the immigrant community in Oregon, where a few towns have a majority Latino population, and in much of the rest of the nation.

"I am very afraid," Juan Avalos said in an interview. "But that's the point today, coming out of the shadows. We will no longer be afraid, and this is the main point of the event."

Now 21, Avalos had come to America from Salamanca, a town in Guanajuato state in central Mexico, when he was only 12. He is a student at a community college and works at an auto body shop.

"We are students. We are brothers. We are people who are just trying to be someone in life," he said.

Trump says deportations are needed to keep America safe, and that the priority is to get criminals out. But some of those with no criminal history, or minor infractions, are also being detained.

During the rally, one of the protesters was on the phone, being told there had been people detained in the last few days in Woodburn, a predominantly Latino town south of Portland.

On Feb.9, a Woodburn man, a father of two who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, was detained by ICE agents and sent to a detention center in Tacoma, Washington. ICE did not immediately confirm any additional detentions in Woodburn.

Luna Flores, who spoke at the rally, has lived in Portland for 16 years, and she is the mother of a U.S. citizen. She worries that she will be separated from her daughter if she is deported.

"We try to send a message to the ICE, to the government, to the whole administration, we are not criminals," she said. "They are separating our families."

Hannah Zaiv, a retired mental health counselor from Portland, held a sign saying "Let Them Stay" as she listed to the speakers.

"This is a country made for everyone," she said. "The world should be made for everyone. Like John Lennon sang in 'Imagine': 'Imagine there's no countries.' "

When asked if undocumented immigrants should be afraid of being detained, ICE released the following statement to KATU:

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sensitive locations policies, which remain in effect, provide that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action. Public demonstrations, such as a march, rally or parade, are covered by the sensitive locations policy and ICE remains committed to ensuring those seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.

ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. The Department of Homeland Security remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses on its priorities including convicted criminals, gang members and other individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.

A spokesperson for the Oregon Republican Party also gave KATU a statement:

Laws exist to protect the rights of citizens. Illegal immigrants flaunting their illegality is the same as promoting anarchy. Oregonians should be protected from lawlessness and have a right under our state constitution to expect their public officials to put the safety and security of citizens first. Illegal aliens who have “engaged in criminal conduct in the U.S.” should be deported immediately, with the active assistance of every state, county, and local law enforcement entity. We are deeply concerned that Oregon’s leaders have abandoned the rule-of-law in favor of political pandering, at the expense of the citizens they claim to represent.

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