Oregon Congressional Delegation presses ICE on rights of immigrant detainees at federal prison in Oregon

Merkley, Wyden, Bonamici, Blumenauer, DeFazio and Schrader called for detainees to immediately be allowed access to legal services

PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with House members Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, on Monday demanded that the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately allow individuals being held at a federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” to access legal services through free phone calls.

 

“We are deeply concerned by reports that [Bureau of Prisons] and ICE are hindering detainees’ access to legal counsel, consular staff, and family communication in this facility. We request that you immediately allow detainees to access legal service providers through free telephone calls,” the delegation wrote. “This policy should already be in place at all ICE-contracted facilities, based on your published guidance for detainee communication rights.”

 

At least 123 immigrant civil detainees are being held at the Sheridan Federal Corrections Institution under an inter-agency agreement between ICE and the Bureau of Prisons. The detainees are among the more than 1,600 people that ICE is holding in federal prisons across the United States as it enforces President Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy” on immigration. Under the policy, the Trump Administration is dividing families who arrive together and is tearing children away from their parents, detaining them in separate facilities even if their parents are seeking asylum from violence in their home countries.

 

According to the ICE Performance Based Detention Standards, detainees are supposed to be allowed the fundamental right to legal counsel: “each facility shall permit detainees to make direct or free calls to … legal representatives, to obtain legal representation, or for consultation when subject to expedited removal.”

Attorneys and immigrant legal defense groups have told Oregon delegation members that they are ready to assist these individuals, including working to establish a hotline to easily facilitate attorney-client communication.

The full letter is found here and below.

June 11, 2018

Thomas Homan

Acting Director

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

500 12th Street SW, Mail Stop 5003

Washington, DC 20536-5003

Dear Director Homan,

It is our understanding that at least 123 immigrant civil detainees are being held at the federal detention center portion of the Sheridan Federal Corrections Institution in Sheridan, Oregon under an inter-agency agreement between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). We are deeply concerned by reports that BOP and ICE are hindering detainees’ access to legal counsel, consular staff, and family communication in this facility. We request that you immediately allow detainees to access legal service providers through free telephone calls.

This policy should already be in place at all ICE-contracted facilities, based on your published guidance for detainee communication rights. According to the ICE Performance Based Detention Standards, the rules for legal access generally provide that “each facility shall permit detainees to make direct or free calls to…legal representatives, to obtain legal representation, or for consultation when subject to expedited removal.”

Our offices are aware of multiple attorneys and immigrant legal defense groups who have committed to assist these individuals and are working to establish a hotline to facilitate attorney-client communication.  Again, we request you provide immediate guidance to Sheridan Federal Corrections Institution and BOP explicitly granting all detainees prompt access to legal service providers though free telephone calls.

Thank you for giving this request your immediate attention.