Twenty immigrants held at the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility in The Dalles are refusing to eat, for the second time this year, to pressure the jail into providing better conditions for people detained on immigration charges.
The hunger strike is the second this year by immigrants awaiting immigration hearings or deportation in NORCOR, which has been criticized for jailing undocumented immigrants for the federal government despite being a state-funded institution. Advocacy group Gorge ICE Resistance says the strike is part of an 185-day-long protest movement aimed at convincing the jail's board of directors to release the detainees held there on civil immigration violations.
"I have heard the stories of vulnerable people living under conditions that are intolerable," John Boonstra of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, which is part of the Gorge ICE Resistance network, said in a statement. "Hunger strikes come at great risk to people who are already isolated for indeterminate amounts of time. Now is the time for us to support termination of the ICE contract at NORCOR."
The immigrants who now refuse to eat demand better food, cheaper commissary items, cheaper phone calls, personal visitation with family and more books in the library.
In July, a group of Oregon residents sued NORCOR, alleging that the jail's cooperation with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement violates a 1987 state law that limits local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. NORCOR has housed immigration detainees since 2014.