PORTLAND, Maine – Reyna A. Marroquin Solorzano, 22, was working in a laundry here to support her parents and seven siblings in Guatemala. She was injured in a fall while trying to escape a fire in her third-floor apartment and died the next day, Jan. 16.

In its coverage of the story, a local newspaper identified Solorzano as having been “in the country illegally.” Whether by coincidence or not, on Jan. 29 armed U.S. Border Patrol agents raided Portland’s minority, low-income and homeless communities, terrorizing citizens and non-citizens alike in an anti-immigrant “sweep.”

For over a week after the raids, many immigrants were afraid to leave their homes to shop for food, to send their children to school, to go to work, or to seek medical help, according to the Many and One Coalition, an immigrant rights group headquartered in Lewiston, about 45 minutes away.

In a recent letter to Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), the Many and One Coalition wrote, “The unacceptable behavior of the U.S. Border Patrol is no less distressing than the Gestapo’s behavior during the Holocaust, when any citizen of a Nazi-occupied European country could be stopped on the street and asked for papers, and arrested if they did not have any.”

On Feb. 2 over 250 people marched in the snow up Congress Street here, partially reenacting the route taken by the Border Patrol. They stopped at the Somali-owned Halal Meat Market and the Dominican-owned La Bodega Latina store, both targets of the raid. They rallied at Monument Square and heard 20 speakers, including the mayor of Portland and the attorney general of Maine.

Beth Stickney, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, said the behavior of the Border Patrol may be new to Portland, but it is not new to the immigrants who work in Maine’s blueberry and potato fields or in the fishing industries along the coast. Many workers are regularly profiled for arrest by the Border Patrol because of the color of their skin.

Stickney urged vigilance about pending anti-immigrant legislation, including H. Res. 3722, the Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Amendments of 2004, which would require emergency room staff to fingerprint or photograph any undocumented worker they treat and to report him or her to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation.

She also warned about the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act, H.R. 2671 (S. 1906), which would require state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws, but shield them from any accountability for civil rights violations.

The Portland coalition includes El Centro Latino, the Civil Liberties Union, the Maine Council of Churches, the Rural Workers Coalition, the NAACP, Peace Action, the Portland Tenants Union, Veterans for Peace, the American Muslim Society, and the Islamic Society of Portland, among others.

The author can be reached at wells@peaceactionme.org.

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