Final ICE detainees leave federal prison in Oregon
The hundreds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees that were once housed in five federal prisons across the Western United States have been released, deported or transferred to other facilities.
The last ICE detainee being housed at the federal prison in Sheridan, about an hour south of Forest Grove, was transferred on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. The Northwest Detention Center is a private civil detention facility where ICE houses more than 1,000 immigrants.
The second to last detainee was released and granted asylum by an immigration judge last Monday, Nov. 26.
"There are no ICE detainees at Victorville, Sheridan, Sea-Tac, La Tuna or Phoenix," said Tanya Roman, a spokeswoman for ICE.
In May, ICE began sending up to 1,600 detainees to federal prisons in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Texas. More than 120 were booked into the Sheridan prison on May 31.
The use of the prisons was directly tied to the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy.
"The interagency agreements with (Bureau of Prisons) were set up as a temporary measure," Roman said.
The detainees' confinement in federal prisons prompted multiple lawsuits. Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab argued ICE's use of federal prisons to house detainees violated the U.S. Constitution.
Immigration is a civil violation and has different detention standards than criminal confinement. Many — if not most — of the detainees being housed in prisons had not been charged criminally and were not serving criminal sentences, according to multiple immigration attorneys who worked on the cases.
In Oregon, the majority of the ICE detainees were represented by the Innovation Law Lab.
Stephen Manning, the firm's executive director, said they represented 80 clients detained at Sheridan.
One was granted asylum and the other 79 passed their credible fear interviews, a critical step in the asylum process.
Manning said ICE should never have put detainees in federal prisons.
"It was a mistake for them to do it at the beginning," Manning said. "Over the course of time, the error became more and more apparent — at least as a constitutional matter."
While ICE appears to have abandoned its use of federal prisons, the signed agreements between ICE and the Bureau of Prisons remain in effect until June 2019.
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