Two weeks after protesters in Bend made national headlines by blocking federal officers who were trying to deport two Mexican-born men, the chairman of the Deschutes County Republican Party called out Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel for supporting the protest.
In comments to The Bulletin on Wednesday afternoon, Mike Kusinska condemned Hummel for not supporting law enforcement.
“As far as I’m concerned he belongs out on the street begging for money, not having taxpayers paying his salary,” Kusinska said. “Unlike him, we are proud (of) our government removing two criminals from our local community.”
Kusinska is referring to Josue Arturo Cruz Sanchez, 34, and Marco Zeferino Rios, 32 — longtime Deschutes County residents who on the morning of Aug. 12, were picked up by agents of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement to be removed from the country.
Around noon that day, local activists learned that Cruz Sanchez and Zeferino Rios had been detained by ICE and were being held aboard two buses parked behind SpringHill Suites near the Old Mill District. Luke Richter, head of Central Oregon Peacekeepers, was among the first to arrive, and he stood blocking one of the buses as he implored fellow activists on social media to join him.
The crowd swelled throughout the day as Bend Police officers largely watched from a distance.
As night fell, dozens of federal officers arrived in town and donned combat gear to remove the men from the buses.
A number of public officials visited the protest throughout the day, including Hummel and City Councilors Barb Campbell and Gena Goodman-Campbell.
Hummel watched as federal officers arrived later and forced protesters out of their way using pepper spray and then removed the men from the buses.
The next day, Hummel tweeted: “I’ve never been so disgusted by my government and so proud of my community.”
Kusinska said the local GOP supports recalling Hummel, though it is not organizing such an effort. He said Campbell should be in jail for blocking one of the buses with her car.
“That’s a felony,” he said.
Hummel said he’s amused that a partisan group attacked him with a claim of partisanship.
The district attorney is a nonpartisan position in Oregon. Though he advocates for progressive criminal justice measures, Hummel is not a registered Democrat.
“I’ll continue my focus on ensuring justice is done on a daily basis,” he said. “They can continue doing whatever the heck it is they do.”
Local officials were told ICE had warrants to detain the two men, though ICE often refers to administrative orders to pick up targeted individuals as “warrants.”
Both men do have Oregon criminal records. Cruz Sanchez was arrested twice in 2018, for criminal trespass, assault and coercion, and once in 2019, for assault.
Zeferino Rios was convicted of misdemeanor harassment in February 2019.
A spokeswoman for ICE declined to comment citing pending litigation and directed The Bulletin to an online fact sheet.
“ICE continues to focus its limited resources first and foremost on those who pose the greatest threat to public safety,” the page reads. “ICE does not target aliens indiscriminately. Rather, ICE conducts strictly targeted enforcement actions against criminal aliens, frequently those who were arrested by local authorities and released despite ICE detainers.”
Like many sheriff’s offices in Oregon, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office regularly emails ICE lists of foreign-born arrestees, according to sheriff’s spokesman Lt. William Bailey.
This has been done since ICE was founded by former President George W. Bush. But since President Donald Trump took office, removals have occurred more regularly and with less certainty as to who will be targeted, according to local immigration attorneys.
Cruz Sanchez and Zeferino Rios were ultimately transported to ICE’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where they remain pending deportation proceedings.
Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said he had not read the statement from Deschutes County Republicans, but said he thinks it’s wrong to refer to the detainees as criminals.
“I think they are people,” Krantz said. “I think that people have rights and there’s a justice system.”
Bend Mayor Sally Russell, who was criticized by activists for seeming to tweet support for ICE on day of the incident, said she still has not been given good information about ICE’s operation in the area.
“To this date, I have not been provided with, nor seen, any official detailed information despite my asking,” Russell said in a text. “I feel deeply for those families who have had — without alleged due process — family members taken without warning. No one anywhere in the United States should ever experience this.”
Russell declined to comment on whether she felt Hummel’s actions were justified in response to ICE.