The last prison in Oregon that contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to jail immigrant detainees is facing pushback from local community groups.
On Nov. 8, five local community groups voiced their opposition to the facility by filing a joint "friend of the court" brief to demonstrate support to appeal a former ruling earlier this year that ruled the Northern Oregon Corrections facility was operating within parameters of the law by jailing ICE detainees.
The groups filing the brief are the Amici Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, Gorge ICE Resistance, Hood River Latino Network, NORCOR Community Resources Coalition and the Rural Organizing Project. The brief was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and the law firm Miller Nash Graham and Dunn.
The brief alleges that the former ruling evades what they call the 'Disentanglement Statute,' which more widely known as the statute that makes Oregon a sanctuary state.
"The text, context, and legislative history of [the disentanglement statute] demonstrate that the statute 'broadly prohibits the use of any public resources to enforce or assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws at any stage of the law enforcement process,'" the brief reads.
In February, a judge in Wasco County Circuit Court ruled that NORCOR was breaking the disentanglement statute by alerting ICE when a detainee was released, as well as breaking the statute when the jail held ICE detainees past their release date.
The lawsuit was filed by several taxpayers that argued NORCOR was breaking the law by using taxpayer dollars to fund ICE efforts to detain immigrants.
But plaintiffs were disappointed by the judge's ruling on two other issues that were brought up by the lawsuit. The judge ruled that NORCOR was staying within legal bounds with its practice of notifying ICE whenever a person from a foreign country was booked into the jail. The judge also ruled that it was within NORCOR's jurisdiction to detain people in the jail for federal immigration enforcement.
The jail has long been protested by community members. The brief states that protests have been held outside of the jail for 700 consecutive days.
NORCOR declined to comment on the brief.
WW obtained jail records in July 2018 that revealed NORCOR had violated 81 federal requirements in its prior November inspection. Those violations included failure to provide detainees with proper clothing, failing to meet food safety standards, and performing superfluous strip searches.
In 1987 Oregon voters passed a law that banned the state from using state resources to enforce federal immigration laws. In the fall of 2018, Oregon voters overwhelmingly voted down a ballot measure that would have overturned the three decades-long standing law.
"Oregon voters reaffirmed our sanctuary status last year, it's unacceptable that the jail continues to be a cog in the feds' wheel," said Solea Kabakov, who is an active member of Gorge ICE Resistance. "As long as NORCOR cooperates with ICE people are afraid and our community is less safe. This contract needs to end permanently."