PORTLAND, Maine — Cheers like "immigrants are welcome here," echoed in front of Portland city hall Monday night, as protesters raised concerns over a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility that's slated to open downtown.
"There's no transparency and there is no guarantee that people are going to be free from unconstitutional searches," said Adam Rice, who was protesting.
Those in attendance called on city leaders to take action to protect the city's immigrant community.
"I want to know why we're having this consolidation in downtown Portland. Why we're having a holding cell in the middle of commercial tenants in downtown Portland," said Bre Kidman, a criminal defense attorney who is also running for U.S. Senate in 2020.
Many protesters believe the ICE facility will be used to crack down on illegal immigration in Maine. When NEWS CENTER Maine previously spoke with ICE spokesperson John Mohan, he said this new facility will be part of the Homeland Security Investigations division. That division handles more than 400 types of transitional crimes like human trafficking, child exploitation, financial wire fraud, and gang investigations.
Protesters are skeptical however that placing a new facility in downtown Portland at One City Center could harm Portland's immigrant community.
"There are cops to fight federal crime, there's the FBI to fight federal crime. We don't need ICE specifically here to fight federal crime and not with a holding cell in the middle of downtown Portland," said Kidman.
According the Facebook event for Monday's protest, those in attendance are demanding:
1) Rezone the district to prevent federal holding facilities from being operated therein.
2) Pass an ordinance prohibiting ICE officers from entering the grounds of a courthouse, allowing immigrants access to legal services and preventing those obligations from becoming a trap for members of the community.
3) Pass an ordinance forbidding any city employee, including law enforcement, from collaborating with or sharing information with ICE.
4) Pass an ordinance prohibiting any city contracts being signed with any company that leases space to ICE.
5) Ease public assembly laws to allow the establishment of an ongoing protest across from One City Center.
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling was also in attendance at the rally, calling on the city, and it's officials to take action. "If we're going to walk that walk, we can't talk the talk. If we believe that immigrants and immigration is important to our city, we need protect all of our residents," said Strimling.