Oregon’s federal public defender filed a petition Friday, seeking the immediate release of immigrants who are detained at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan.
The writ of habeas corpus is on behalf of a Honduran man who tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, California — a legal point of entry. According to the filing, Santos Osorto-Chicas and his 9-year-old son — identified in the document as D.O.C. — requested asylum at the border, but were detained by immigration officials.
Osorto-Chicas and his family were fleeing Honduras in fear of their lives, according to Public Defender Lisa Hay.
In May and June, the federal government detained 123 men who tried to cross the border, and sent them to the Sheridan prison. Those men came from a variety of countries — including Guatemala, Honduras, China, Russia, Armenia, Eritrea and Bangladesh — and were detained as part of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy on illegal immigration.
Friday's filing says that immigration officials took Osorto-Chicas' son, D.O.C., to a foster home in Los Angeles after they were detained.
Osorto-Chicas' wife and another child had crossed the border around 10 days earlier and met up with family in Miami.
"Mr. Osorto-Chicas' wife stated that the nine-year-old D.O.C. was still in custody in Los Angeles and, when contacted through a social worker, was crying inconsolably," Hay wrote. "Mr. Osorto-Chicas' separation from his child is causing him immediate and intense distress."
The writ of habeas corpus also describes the conditions at the Sheridan prison as cramped, unsanitary and without access to adequate legal counsel. It says Osorto-Chicas is wearing prison coveralls, confined to a cell for at least 22 hours per day, and shares a cell with two other people.
Other detainees have described similar conditions at the prison, Hay said.
The office of Oregon’s federal public defender argues Ostoro-Chicas’ civil rights are being violated, and he should be released from prison immediately so he can reunite with his family.
"He is a civil detainee in criminal detention even though he is not a risk to the community or of flight, his separation from his son violates due process," Hay said.
Hay's petition for release names Sheridan prison warden Josias Salazar as a respondent. It also names Elizabeth Godfrey, the acting field office director in Seattle for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It would be up to a judge to decide whether to grant the petition and if it should be applied more broadly to other detainees at the Sheridan prison.