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Lawsuit Argues Jail's ICE Contract Violates Oregon Sanctuary Law


A Wasco County Judge is set to hear arguments Wednesday about whether Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facilities, known as NORCOR, are violating Oregon’s sanctuary law.

In July, a group of Wasco County residents filed a lawsuit arguing NORCOR is violating a state statute.

ORS 181A.820 was passed more than 30 years ago. It prohibits using public money, equipment or personnel for the purpose of detecting or apprehending people who whose only violation is being in the country unlawfully.

NORCOR has a lucrative contract to hold detainees who are in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.

Jail officials have budgeted more than $1 million from ICE this year for housing detainees. It costs about $6 million per year to keep NORCOR running.

“It’s the issue of using Oregon resources for a policy and a practice that I think is very dangerous,” said Stephen Manning, the attorney representing the Wasco County residents.

Manning declined to discuss the lawsuit, but in court filings argues NORCOR is breaking the law.

“In keeping with this purpose, ORS 181A.820 was intended to prevent such agencies from using public money, personnel, or equipment to assist federal officials at any stage of the immigration enforcement process,” the lawsuit states.

Manning’s clients are asking a judge to find that NORCOR is in violation of the law and for the jail to end its contract with ICE.

NORCOR is a cinder block jail surrounded by a high chain-link fence and razor wire in an industrial section of The Dalles, Oregon.

NORCOR is a cinder block jail surrounded by a high chain-link fence and razor wire in an industrial section of The Dalles, Oregon.

Conrad Wilson/OPB

NORCOR officials argue they’re operating on solid legal ground. They say they’re not engaged in “detecting or apprehending” immigrants.

“We’re not violating that law,” NORCOR administration Bryan Brandenberg told OPB. “We’re not using state or local resources to detect and detain or arrest.”

Rather, Brandenberg said they’re only housing detainees arrested by ICE and brought to the jail.

The Josephine County Jail also has a contract with ICE to house detainees.

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