After months of deeply committed organizing for immigrant fairness in the Gorge, including immigrants inhumanely detained at NORCOR (Northern Oregon Regional Correctional facility in The Dalles) going on hunger strike, Gorge ICE Resistance and the brave hunger strikers inside the jail have one more victory to celebrate!
Several taxpayers from the Gorge have filed a lawsuit against NORCOR for misusing public funds by contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigrants in civil detention. By housing immigrants detained by ICE, NORCOR is in direct violation of Oregon state law ORS 181A.820, which bans any public agency from using state or local resources to help in federal immigration enforcement. See the full press release here, and check out Gorge ICE Resistance’s statement and opportunities for action below!
While this lawsuit is focused on a single jail, NORCOR, it will have ripple effects across our state. We have heard that several public jails across Oregon have ICE contracts, particularly in cash-strapped communities worried about funding their budget. Calling your county and city officials in charge of these facilities is an important step to finding out what your community is doing to support or undermine immigrant community members’ right to human dignity. Click here to check out a script to get you started, and let ROP know what you learn by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Meanwhile, the attacks on our immigrant neighbors and policies that strive to keep our communities whole are heating up. In the Oregon legislature, Oregonians for Immigration Reform, Oregon’s loudest anti-immigrant rights organization, has teamed up with three representatives in an attempt to repeal ORS 181A.820, which bans public agencies from using state or local resources to work with or support ICE. The 1987 law is intended to increase access to local law enforcement, emergency services, and other state agencies for immigrants by ensuring that they will not be detained and deported if they report a crime or pay a traffic ticket. Repealing ORS 181A.820 would make all of our communities less safe and deeply endanger the well-being of our neighbors who are immigrants.
Alongside OFIR’s actions to repeal ORS 181A.820, white supremacists such as the National Socialist Movement are publicly organizing and recruiting, advocating for both increased vigilante violence and a stronger ICE presence in our already threatened communities. Most recently Kynan Dutton, Oregon chapter leader of the National Socialist Movement, made infamous by his white supremacist activity featured in “Welcome to Leith”, stated in an interview with Fox 12 News: “We want the sanctuary status of Oregon to be repealed. We want these [undocumented people] to be deported…We support ICE in any fashion and are actively volunteering for anything they will allow us to do.”
There are two visions of Oregon contending for our future: an Oregon where access to liberty, freedom, diversity, and democracy is narrowed, and an Oregon where a multiplicity of cultures, ideas, civil rights, and freedoms is celebrated and expanded. The viability of these two visions are being tested across Oregon, and our small towns and rural communities are the frontline in the struggle for how we expand the “we”, instead of narrowing the “we” to “just me”.
Announcements like today’s lawsuit filing remind us how important the daily work is. While we are fighting against strong opposition, rural folks can make a huge impact through sustained and strategic organizing.
Gorge ICE Resistance is an inspiring example of a community that is organizing around their values of protecting their immigrant neighbors and holding their local institutions accountable to those values. But Gorge ICE Resistance is just one node of the statewide movement for immigrant justice. Now is the time for rural communities across Oregon to show up boldly in solidarity with our immigrant neighbors. We will not allow institutions that claim to serve our community to tear apart families and to detain people in inhumane conditions. We will not allow policies and practices that target immigrants to exist in our hometowns and in our state. We will protect those in our community who are most impacted by racist rhetoric that promotes and excuses violence. We will create spaces that are welcoming and just for everyone who lives here.
Ready to take action?
1. Support the ongoing organizing for immigrant fairness in the Gorge!
- Join Gorge ICE Resistance for their daily rallies outside of NORCOR! 5pm every weekday, 11am Saturday and Sunday.
- Have your group draft a statement in support of the lawsuit and submit it to your local paper!
- Submit a letter to the editor!
2. Bring it on home! Organizing for immigrant fairness in your community!
- Call your sheriff’s department and your town’s jail to find out if there is current contract with ICE, and let ROP know what you found out! Click here for an example script to get you started!
- Write a letter to the editor announcing your findings after calling your local law enforcement.
- Pass an inclusion ordinance in your town and/or county affirming Oregon State Law
- Invite your friendly ROP organizers to your town to host a Living Room Conversation to find out the different ways you can utilize this momentum in a positive way for your own community. Email us at email@example.com to start scheduling!
- Later this summer, we’ll be releasing a “Rural Rapid Response Team” manual, so stay tuned!
Thank you everyone for your commitment to supporting Oregonians new and old, and working everyday to make our shared home a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
Taxpayers In Sanctuary State Sue Local Jail for Detaining Immigrants
The Dalles, Oregon – A group of four Oregon taxpayers who live in the Gorge filed suit Friday against Northern Oregon Corrections dba NORCOR and Wasco County seeking to prohibit their local publicly-funded jail from supporting the work of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining non-citizens held for civil violations. Since 1987, Oregon law has prohibited local law enforcement from engaging in federal immigration enforcement. The Northern Oregon Regional Correctional facility (NORCOR) is a public jail located in the city of The Dalles, Wasco County and funded by Hood River, Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties.
“We live in a state [Oregon] that has for 30 years legally upheld values that prohibit law enforcement and correctional institutions from aiding ICE because we want everyone to feel safe accessing public services and institutions,” said Reverend John Boonstra of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, a group of local clergy who have been visiting detainees regularly at the jail. “Ending the NORCOR contract with ICE would honor our shared values of community safety and keeping all of our families together.”
NORCOR, located in The Dalles, Oregon, is a public facility built specifically to house inmates from the four counties that finance it. In 2014, NORCOR entered into a contract with the federal government to house immigrant detainees, even though Oregon law has prohibited the use of state or local funds on federal immigration enforcement for the last thirty years. By using Oregon resources for federal immigration in violation of Oregon law, the case contends that NORCOR is misusing taxpayer money. Stephen W. Manning, a lawyer with Immigrant Law Group PC and a member of the Innovation Law Lab, represents several of the taxpayer plaintiffs.
“As long as NORCOR has a contract with ICE, public trust in our local law enforcement is undermined,” said Sarah Kellems, resident of Hood River County. “The mission of NORCOR is to ‘provide enhanced public safety’, however the contract with ICE decreases public safety because our immigrant neighbors feel unsafe accessing public resources and services, including reporting crime.”
Gorge ICE Resistance, a human dignity coalition of more than a dozen local groups throughout the Columbia Gorge, was formed when ICE detainees at NORCOR began a hunger strike calling attention to inhumane conditions inside the jail several months ago. Gorge ICE Resistance held solidarity actions at the jail every day since May 1st, hosted mass community education events about immigration and ICE detainees, and lobbied the NORCOR Board to drop its contract with ICE. Rallies continue daily to amplify the messages of immigrants held at NORCOR who have asked for improved conditions including microwaves to heat food, access to jobs and programs as well as in person family visits as opposed to the current system of expensive and impersonal video conferencing.
“I hope this lawsuit encourages the NORCOR Board to seriously consider what having an ICE contract means to taxpayers in the Gorge,” said Solea Kabakov, resident of The Dalles and member of Gorge ICE Resistance. “Our neighbors don’t feel safe knowing that ICE is actively detaining immigrants in inhumane conditions in our local jail. We don’t want this happening in our community, and certainly not with our tax dollars.”
SATURDAY, JULY 29th at 11:00am-1:00pm: Rally in Solidarity with immigrants held at NORCOR (211 Webber St; The Dalles, OR 97058).
Gorge ICE Resistance is a coalition of several local organizations throughout the Columbia Gorge who have formed to support the NORCOR federal detainees, including Gorge Ecumenical Ministries, Somos Uno, Hood River Latino Network, Mid-Columbia Community Action Network, Gorge ReSisters, Community Action Network, Grassroots IMPACT, Protect Oregon Progress and Columbia Gorge Women’s Action Network.
Daily actions Monday-Friday 5:00pm-6:00pm & Saturday-Sunday 11:00am-12:00pm