Immigration forum to address local concerns

Local police and immigration advocates will meet today for a panel discussion surrounding the relationship between local law enforcement and federal immigration laws, and their constitutionality.

Diana Banda, a 22-year-old 2008 Ashland High School graduate and illegal immigrant whose story has been told on the floor of the United State Senate to garner support for the DREAM Act, will join three others during the panel presentation and dialogue open to community members at the Unitarian Church of Ashland, 87 Fourth St.

The 6:30 to 8 p.m. presentation also will include Dave Lefkowitz, coordinator for Southern Oregon Amnesty International, Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness and Sarah Schendel, an immigration attorney at the Center for Non-Profit Legal Services in Medford.

"People should be aware that our policy on immigration is being challenged under international law," said Lefkowitz, who plans to speak about the constitutionality of U.S. immigration policy from the perspective of international human rights law.

Schendel said she will focus on Secure Communities policy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and how its implementation is creating a mistrust between illegal immigrants and local police forces.

"Because of some local law enforcement's history of cooperation with Secure Communities, it's creating a lack of trust," said Schendel. "Immigrants are less likely to come forward if they've witnessed a crime, or offer information to police because they fear they will be harassed."

Holderness said APD has nothing to do with ICE, and doesn't cooperate with Secure Communities, like most departments that do not operate jails.

Jackson County Sheriff's Office does cooperate with Secure Communities, and any person arrested and sent to jail by the Ashland Police goes to Jackson County Jail, where their record can be reviewed by the FBI, and eventually by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE.

"Most local law enforcement agencies don't want to get involved with immigration issues," Holderness said. "There is a lot of misconception about what we do or don't do relative to immigrations issues, and we just don't "… we send everyone to county."

Banda, who moved to Oregon from Mexico with her family when she was 3 years old, is a part of the Oregon Dream Activist organization.

"It should be a good discussion," said Lefkowitz. "A timely one, certainly."

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled against most of a law in Arizona meant to deter illegal immigration. The court ruled 5-3 that the authority of setting immigration policy and laws falls on the federal government solely.

The high court, however, let stand the most controversial aspect of the law, which gives police the authority to check a person's immigration status during an unrelated incident.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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