Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Trump’s federal deportation force, has a contract to jail people in deportation proceedings in a county jail called Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR,) just 90 miles outside of downtown Portland in The Dalles. In September, we sent a letter to NORCOR demanding that detainees be given basic, humane living conditions.
The ACLU of Oregon began investigating conditions at NORCOR last spring when a group of brave detainees went on hunger strike to bring attention to conditions at the jail. Our investigation revealed multiple violations of rights guaranteed to immigration detainees including: interference with access to counsel and the courts; inadequate medical care; inadequate nutrition; denial of religious liberty; inability to meaningfully exercise; no means of visitation with family and exorbitant phone rates; poor hygiene and sanitation; and inadequate clothing for cold temperatures. These conditions are unacceptable for immigration detainees and those at NORCOR for criminal proceedings alike. But despite the desperate pleas of the immigration detainees and local residents, demands for humane conditions at NORCOR have largely been ignored by the jail administration.
Tuesday night, the ICE detainees in NORCOR began a second hunger strike. The hunger strikers have identified six priority concerns:
- Inadequate food and poor nutrition
- High cost of commissary items
- Unaffordable phone and video calling rates
- Lack of the ability to visit with family in person
- Lack of access to meaningful exercise and recreation
- Inadequate library and activities
The hunger strikers’ demands raise many of the same constitutional concerns we identified in our demand letter to NORCOR in September.
Bryan Brandenberg, NORCOR’s Administrator, responded to that letter with a broad-brush denial of the allegations we made. In doing so, he offered to provide information proving that the conditions at NORCOR were not as they were described in our letter. So, last Friday, we sent Brandenberg a letter requesting his purported proof.
In that request, we specifically ask for policies and other documents related to the constitutional violations both we and detainees at NORCOR have identified and demanded to be fixed.
After months of attempts to work with the jail staff, very few changes have actually been made and the cruel and unconstitutional conditions continue at NORCOR. The jail must stop holding immigration detainees and dramatically overhaul conditions for all people in its custody.