Some 123 men from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are being held at the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, according to an immigration attorney trying to gain access to the facility to provide legal counsel.
“No one has been able talk to them,” said Stephen Manning, an attorney with the Immigrant Law Group in Portland.
Speaking to OPB late Friday, Manning said some of the men have been separated from their children. He’s working with a team of attorneys in Oregon that wants to provide legal counsel to the men in detention.
On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced they were transferring 1,600 immigrants awaiting deportation hearings to federal prisons in five states, including California, Oregon and Washington. The agency said a surge in border crossings combined with a new federal policy to prosecute anyone crossing the border illegally created the need for more beds.
Manning estimated most of the men at the federal prison in Sheridan arrived in the last few days.
Oregon Department of Human Services said Friday that currently they aren’t caring for any children separated from their parents at the border.
“The federal government has not approached us to take in any children from other parts of the country who are being separated from their families into foster care,” Christine Stone, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an email. “However, as we do for all children in Oregon if there are children who come to our attention who are not safe, we would work to find them appropriate foster homes.”
ICE has contracted space for 130 beds at the federal prison in Sheridan and 209 beds at the SeaTac federal detention center in Washington.
It’s largely — if not entirely — women at the SeaTac facility.
Immigration advocates say women at the federal facility near Seattle were separated from their children after they crossed the border and were arrested by officers with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. The women were seeking asylum, advocates say.