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Bipartisan Bill Would End OR Jail's Contract with ICE

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract provides $820,000 a year to a jail in The Dalles, Ore. (Andrei/Adobe Stock)
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract provides $820,000 a year to a jail in The Dalles, Ore. (Andrei/Adobe Stock)
February 11, 2020

SALEM, Ore. -- A bipartisan bill in the Oregon Legislature could end a federal immigration agency's contract with a local jail. House Bill 4121 would prohibit the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility, or NORCOR, in The Dalles from renewing contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

NORCOR is the only facility in the state that has a contract with ICE to hold immigrant detainees. Tim Schechtel with Gorge ICE Resistance said his group has been speaking with State Rep. Daniel Bonham, a Republican from The Dalles who is co-sponsoring the bill.

"We don't want to take down the jail," Schechtel said. "We just want ICE out of here because it's an affront to our immigrant population that are part of our community, that we rely on, who have been basically put down and maintained as a permanent underclass in our society. And we're done with that."

In order to end the contract, Oregon lawmakers would have to agree to cover the money the jail receives from its ICE contract, buying it off with state resources. That amounts to about $820,000 a year. NORCOR is an adult facility for four counties.

One of Gorge ICE Resistance's biggest issues with ICE and NORCOR is that it has been holding a number of individuals for long periods of time - even years. Schechtel said the group has organized for clergy to go into the jail twice a week and lawyers once a month since May 2017, and there are two people who have been detained for nearly three years.

"It's a prison, and it's not designed for that," he said. "But just the whole idea of someone being detained without rights - with limited access to legal assistance, almost no access to their family - is basically cruel and inhumane."

Schechtel said he's heard from lawmakers if the bill survives this week, it could get a full vote from the House. While that could be a long shot, he said he believes it's important this conversation is happening at all, and said it's an example of the influence local voices can have on the Legislature.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR