NORCOR makes policy change

In April, the regional jail stopped a practice of honoring immigration detainers for local arrestees, citing, in part, “local community concern and opposition” to housing immigration detainees.

The change came days before the jail settled for $40,100 a federal lawsuit brought by a Hood River County man, Javier Esquivez Maldonado, who was held for nearly 20 hours by the jail last July on an immigration detainer after he went there solely to be booked and released, per court orders, on a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.

Solea Kabakov, spokesperson for Gorge ICE Resistance, which opposes immigration detention at the jail, said she “found it hard to believe” that public pressure was a factor in the policy change, since it happened within days of the settlement, but if it was, she was encouraged.

“I’m happy to know resistance works, and if they are listening to the community, that’s a wonderful, positive improvement,” she said.

“I hope they will follow through and follow this new policy because that is a very positive change for the community and for immigrants that live in our community to feel safe,” she said.

She said earlier that the resistance group would be presenting a petition to stop the ICE contract to the jail board at its June 21 meeting.

In a June 12 written statement to the Chronicle, the regional jail’s general counsel Diana McDougle said, “the change in NORCOR’s [Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities] Immigration and Customs Housing Policy was not related to the settlement in Maldonado.”

She said that was evidenced by the settlement agreement itself, which was silent on the policy, and the timing of the change in policy, coming eight days before the settlement.

In the settlement agreement the jail “expressly denied” any “fault and wrongdoing,” McDougle wrote.

She said the April 2 change was “not required by the statute,” and the former policy prior to April 2 “did not violate the statute.”

McDougle said state law expressly allows the jail to communicate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding federal detainees. Specifically, a law enforcement agency may exchange information with ICE to verify the immigration status of a person if the person is arrested for any criminal offense.

She said the policy change was prompted by “local community concern” and the jail’s “efforts to implement and be consistent with the best industry practices in our region and elsewhere.”

Local residents have been picketing the regional jail every day for over a year in protest of its housing of immigration detainees.

Activists regularly attend jail board meetings and have made a variety of requests, primarily that the jail drop its ICE contract and also that in-person visits be restored at the jail.

In regards to aligning the regional jail with best industry practices, other jails in the metro area stopped honoring ICE detainers in 2014 after Clackamas County was successfully sued by a woman who was held on an ICE detainer after her local charges were settled.

A federal court ruled Clackamas County was liable for damages in honoring the detainer, which the court found was only a request, and not mandatory.

The mere existence of the detainer, the court said, did not constitute probable cause to detain the woman.

An Oregonian/Oregonlive article from 2014 indicated NORCOR, along with five other Oregon counties, would not be honoring detainers anymore as a result of that lawsuit.

Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt, who was president at the time of the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association then, told the Oregonian in 2014 that the Clackamas County lawsuit “kind of leaves us in a situation where we don’t have much of a choice.”

McDougle said she could not comment on what Bettencourt said in 2014 because of a separate lawsuit the regional jail is facing.

That lawsuit alleges the jail is violating state law which bans local agencies from expending public funds or resources to “detect or apprehend” people whose only violation is that they are in the country illegally.

The regional jail has argued in court that its contract with ICE does not violate state law.

A detainer is not a warrant. In the lawsuit Maldonado filed last December, he alleged he was arrested and incarcerated by the jail on the ICE detainer without probable cause that he had committed a crime and without a state or federal warrant.

He said the jail arrested him despite a court order that he be booked and then released.

He came to the jail at 8 a.m. on July 10 and filled out paperwork that said he would be released. The process was done by 9 a.m., but he wasn’t let go. Instead, he was arrested at the request of ICE “for the sole purpose of enforcing federal civil immigration laws,” the lawsuit alleged.

He was told at the time, in Spanish: “You don’t have anything to do with us, just with immigration.”

The new policy states that, since it will no longer accept ICE detainers for local detainees, “this means that these individuals will be allowed to post bail and be released pursuant to their state court stipulations and conditions.

Therefore, if a detainee has finished their sentence, been released by the court, or posted bail, they will not be held past their release.”

Willamette Week reported that the jail had received 105 detainers from ICE between November 2014 and October 2017. At least 62 people were booked on detainers over that span.

“The data provided by ICE indicates that NORCOR only declined to cooperate with one detainer request made during that three-year period,” Willamette Week reported.

In a press release from his attorneys, Maldonado said the experience “has been very difficult for me and my family” and that the “money cannot cure all the suffering caused by NORCOR’s injustice, but my hope is that now other families will not be harmed” by NORCOR’s detainer practices.

He received $30,100 of the settlement and his attorneys received $10,000.

He is represented by the Oregon Law Center. His attorneys declined to comment.

The lawsuit alleged NORCOR’s previous policy stemmed from a practice of soliciting and complying with ICE detainers.

It alleged the jail’s motive for doing so was money, “In fact, ICE paid NORCOR $80” for detaining Maldonado, it stated.



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