Bipartisan Bill Challenges ICE-NORCOR Contract

A bipartisan bill to terminate ICE’s contract with Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility is up for the 2020 legislative session, although it comes with a hefty price tag.  

Immigration advocates have long argued that NORCOR’s contract to hold ICE detainees violates Oregon’s status as a sanctuary state, despite a Wasco County judge’s ruling to the contrary last year. Now, Representatives Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, and Anna Williams, D-Hood River, have joined forces to propose a solution.  

House Bill 4121 would prevent NORCOR from accepting further contracts with ICE, provided that the state government makes up for the loss in funding.  

“In the community I live in, the jail gets picketed by folks,” Bonham told OPB. “At the same time, the jail requires a minimal amount of funding to provide the services it provides … At the end of the day, we tried to come up with a way to let everybody win.”  

However, given that the bill would cost $1.64 million every two year, it will likely face opposition from a legislature that is attempting to moderate state spending.  

“There are very reasonable concerns about not only setting precedent that the state would come in and fill county budget gaps,” Williams said, “but also real concerns about spending new ongoing money in an unpredictable budget environment right now.”   

HB 4121 has been endorsed by several Wasco County officials, including County Commissioner Kathy Schwartz and Department of Youth Services Director Molly Rogers. Representatives from NORCOR declined to comment.  

Williams says that the bill “allows us to have conversations about our sanctuary law and about how we are or are not living up to that as a state … Whether we get it funded or not, that’s a very valuable conversation to have.”  

By Brandon Urey