Advocacy Groups Lambaste Last ICE Prison in Oregon, File Suit

On November 8, five community organizations from the Columbia River Gorge filed a brief calling for the end of Northern Oregon Corrections Facility’s contract with ICE.  

Located in the Dalles, NORCOR is the last county jail in Oregon that holds ICE detainees, earning significant backlash from the community. Protests against the prison have gone on for 700 days straight.  

The brief was filed by Amici Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, Gorge ICE Resistance, Hood River Latino Network, NORCOR Community Resources Coalition and the Rural Organizing Project, who are represented by the ACLU of Oregon and Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP. They argue that NORCOR’s contract with ICE violates the Disentanglement Statute, which gives Oregon its status as a sanctuary state.   

The statute was passed in 1987, when “Oregonians saw that the human and fiscal costs of immigration enforcement harms Oregon communities,” said ACLU staff attorney Leland Baxter-Neal, “which is exactly what’s happening with NORCOR. And just like today, it was clear then that local involvement in federal immigration enforcement increases instances of racial profiling by police leading to fear, distrust, and division.”  

The brief states that “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.'”   

In February, a Wasco County judge ruled that NORCOR had violated the Disentanglement Statute on some counts, but were still within their jurisdiction to hold immigration detainees, and allowed their contract with ICE to continue.  

The groups also argue that the contract hurts the relationship between the community and local law enforcement. “According to Martha Verduzco, founder and president of Hood River Latino Network, “‘Someone may be hurting me, but because ICE is at NORCOR, I’m afraid to contact law enforcement because I’m afraid I will be taken away.’”  

By Brandon Urey