NORCOR, last jail in Oregon to house immigration detainees, officially ends ICE Contract
By: Rachel Horner
A unanimous agreement was made by the board who oversees Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles to forbid NORCOR from housing immigration detainees, which had been the lone jail left in Oregon permitted to do so. While the board has not yet commented on their exact reasoning behind the sudden end to the contact, which was announced August 20, they did mention in a statement that there was a decrease in detainees — which had lead to a decrease in revenue for the jail.
NORCOR’s contract with ICE was found to be controversial by many. For one, it is situated in Oregon, a “sanctuary state.” The law which marked Oregon as such was enacted in 1987, and states that police or any other local law enforcement are banned from using their resources to detect or apprehend any individual whose only violation is being in the country unlawfully. It also limits the extent to which local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration officials, such as ICE. Many felt that NORCOR’s practices violated this sanctuary law, and in 2017, a group of taxpayers filed a lawsuit stating NORCOR was violating sanctuary law, partly because of its contract with ICE.
The jail continued to face backlash over its controversial practices in the following years, particularly from community members who felt that NORCOR had allowed ICE to abuse its authority. For example, Angelina Godoy, professor at University of Washington and director of The Center for Human Rights, co-authored a report which detailed the wrongdoings of NORCOR in its treatment towards its detainees, arguing that ICE had overstepped its legal authority by sending juveniles, who had just been separated from their families on the east coast, to either NORCOR or Cowlitz County Jail. She argued juvenile detainees should be sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which Congress had previously designated as the agency responsible for representing immigration youth. “ICE, as a component of DHS, must transfer any child in its custody to the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” Godoy stated in her report.
ICE countered that certain minors were a “threat” to public safety. However, Godoy and others viewed the extent of the problem to be far less severe. She noted that the detainees were minors who had committed only a civil violation, not a criminal offense, because of their immigration status, which requires a less intensive standard of detention.
However, even if these detainees had committed some kind of criminal offense, Godoy says, ICE would not have the authority to punish them. Her report elaborates that, “…while some people detained by ICE may previously have been convicted of a crime, or may still face criminal charges in another jurisdiction, ICE detention is limited to administrative immigration violations.”
While NORCOR will no longer be a factor in the debate over ICE and its immigration policies, it is not unrealistic for ICE to search for another jail soon to reach a new agreement with. The board will likely provide an update during its September board meeting.
As an operations analyst and proofreader at Park Evaluations, Rachel Horner reviews and edits evaluations for consistency and coherency, and ensures quality content is produced for the clients. During her free time, she likes to ride her bike and spend time with her shih-tzu, Callie.