This story was published alongside Final arguments in jail lawsuit made.
The regional jail is “purposefully assisting” immigration officials, in violation of state law, an attorney argued at a court hearing last Thursday.
Court filings also indicated the jail since January 2017 has held dozens of immigration detainees who had no criminal history. The jail has repeatedly said it did not do so.
Erin Pettigrew, representing three of the four taxpayers who sued the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility in 2017, presented evidence that the jail is notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when foreign born persons are brought to jail — via a special form that was created by ICE — and notifies ICE again when they are released.
Before the lawsuit was filed, NORCOR officers testified that it was typical for NORCOR to call ICE to inform them of a foreign born person in custody.
She said Oregon’s 1987 “sanctuary” law allows law enforcement agencies to exchange information in order to “verify” status or to obtain criminal investigation information, but not to merely “notify” ICE when a foreign born person is taken to the jail or released.
In a November court filing, attorneys for the four taxpayers said the notifications to ICE about when foreign-born people arrive at and leave the jail “are not made for any local law enforcement purposes.”
Two exceptions to the state law allow law enforcement agencies to exchange information with ICE for specific purposes. One is to verify the immigration status of a person who has been criminally charged and the other is to obtain information for a criminal investigation.
“NORCOR claims that they have no investigative function or fact-finding function with respect to immigration status, so what they’re doing does not qualify under either of the exemptions under the statute,” Pettigrew said after the court hearing.
The four taxpayers, Brian Stovall, John Olmstead, Connie Krummrich and Karen Brown, are asking that the jail terminate its ICE contract, arguing their tax dollars are illegally being used to assist immigration enforcement in violation of the sanctuary law.
Pettigrew said the point of the sanctuary law was to get law enforcement out of the immigration enforcement business. “When they notify ICE that someone has arrived at the jail and when that person leaves,” they are participating in immigration enforcement, she said.
The plaintiffs are asking the judge to forbid the practice, along with the practice of holding individuals past their release date.
At the hearing, before Wasco County Circuit Court Judge John Wolf, both sides asked for rulings in their favor. The judge anticipates a ruling within a month.
Pettigrew called the jail’s notice practices a “gratuitous notification directly to ICE.”
Court documents include several memos from then-Lt. Dan Lindhorst, who is now jail commander, that appear to contradict statements he made to The Chronicle in 2017.
The Chronicle wrote a March 21, 2017 article about the regional jail that paraphrased Lindhorst as saying that if an arrestee was about to make bail, the jail would call the Portland ICE office about two hours ahead of the inmate’s release, allowing ICE time to get to The Dalles to pick them up.
After its publication, Lindhorst said that the article was incorrect and no such calls were made, since they were not allowed under state law. The Chronicle printed a clarification.
Court documents, however, include a Jan. 2, 2018 memo from Lindhorst to staff in which he states, “We shall no longer call ICE to give information.”
The memo reads in full: “Effective immediately, we will no longer be notifying ICE of “Book and Release” foreign born inmates that are being processed. Book and Releases will no longer be subject to ICE notification in any manner by staff.
“Foreign Born inmates being processed for criminal charges, and subject to being lodged in the facility, shall be subject to ICE notification by the attached form. We shall no longer call ICE to give information.
“Please be aware that the form may be emailed or faxed to ICE.”
Lindhorst told The Chronicle Monday, “I can’t comment on anything at this point because we still have the litigation ongoing.”
David Henretty, also one of the attorneys representing the four taxpayers, said that since 2015, nearly 40 undocumented immigrants had been held by the regional jail after their release date to allow ICE to come pick them up.
One of the so-called detainers was done even after the jail said it had abandoned the practice, he said.
The jail changed their stated policy last April, but only after a lawsuit was brought against it for the practice, Henretty said.
The Hood River man who sued was awarded $40,000. He had appeared at the jail to be booked and released, per a judge’s order, but was held for nearly 20 hours until ICE came to pick him up.
Henretty said that keeping someone past their release date constituted a new arrest, and is an impermissible enforcement of federal immigration law.
Kimberlee Petrie-Volm, an attorney for the regional jail, said the jail did not admit any wrongdoing, and only changed its policy because it had talked to other jails and modified its policy to align with common practice.
A 2014 ruling against Clackamas County held that holding ICE inmates past their release date on behalf of ICE was a violation of their Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure.
Here NORCOR argues that its holding of inmates after they were to be released was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment because they are converted to ICE detainees once the jail receives an I-203 form from ICE, and they are being held under ICE’s authority, not the jail’s.
Court records also showed that the regional jail has held dozens of immigration detainees without criminal history, despite repeatedly saying they were not doing so.
A court filing by Henretty indicates 78 ICE detainees spent 1,142 days at the jail since January 2017 without having previous criminal history.
The filing is titled “Summary of persons held by NORCOR who have no ‘previous criminal history’ indicated on their I-203.”
It says 17 people were held in the jail since January 2017 for illegal entry, three for traffic offenses, one for visa overstay, and 57 had the notation “NC” meaning no charge, on the I-203 form.