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NORCOR Jail Changes Immigration Policy

The Northern Oregon Regional Corrections facility in The Dalles no longer honors detainers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for people entering the jail on local charges.

The jail, known as NORCOR, officially changed its policy last month after settling a lawsuit with a Hood River man who said officials at NORCOR violated his constitutional rights.

NORCOR is one of at least two jails the state that house ICE detainees. That’s despite a 30-year-old state law that limits local law enforcement agencies from assisting federal immigration agents.

The policy change and lawsuit show that until recently, NORCOR also honored ICE detainers, despite a 2014 federal court ruling that found that ICE detainers did not provide independent authority to jails to hold people past the time when they should have been released on their local charges.

A detainer is a request from U.S. Department of Homeland Security to a jail to keep someone in custody for up to 48 hours until ICE can come get the person.

The correctional facility is about 80 miles east of Portland and serves as the regional jail for four neighboring counties: Gilliam, Hood River, Wasco and Sherman. It also houses detainees in ICE custody that federal immigration officers bring to and from the jail.

According to NORCOR's website, the jail will continue to house ICE detainees, for which it's paid $80 per day, per detainee. NORCOR essentially serves as an overflow facility for ICE, which houses most immigration detainees in the Pacific Northwest at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center.  

What's changed is the practice surrounding people who come into the jail on local charges. Now the jail no longer accepts ICE detainers for them.

It's not clear how widespread the practice was at the jail.

NORCOR updated its website to reflect the new policy:

"Effective April 2, 2018, NORCOR no longer accepts detainers for local detainees," NORCOR's website states. "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."

NORCOR administrator Bryan Brandenberg wasn't available for an interview. But in response to questions about what the new policy means he replied in an email, "It means what it says."

Under its old policy NORCOR sent ICE the names, dates and places of birth and a list of charges for some individuals that were booked into the facility.

"If ICE determines that this person should be detained, they will initiate an I-203 form and send that to us," the old policy stated.

An I-203 is the detainer form NORCOR relied on.

The jail changed its policy after settling a lawsuit with a Hood River man who was detained at the jail for 19 hours in July 2017.

In December, Javier Maldonado filed a lawsuit arguing that NORCOR staff violated his constitutional rights. The jail agreed to pay Maldonado $40,000. His attorneys declined an interview.

Maldonado was detained on July 20, 2017.

Police had charged him with trespassing, a misdemeanor, after they said Maldonado entered his neighbor’s apartment in Hood River, Oregon.

Maldonado was ordered to get fingerprinted at NORCOR, and then he was supposed to be released. But the jail didn’t let him go.

Instead, jail officials held him in custody, per ICE's request. 

NORCOR held Maldonado for 19 hours — until the early morning hours of July 21 — before he was turned over to ICE.

In his lawsuit, Maldonado alleged jail officials violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights; parts of the U.S. Constitution that protect against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as grant equal protections to everyone under the law.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to immigrants among other civil rights-related work, praised NORCOR’s decision, but said Oregon cities and counties also must stop renting space to house people ICE is detaining.

<p>A hallway winds through the NORCOR facility in The Dalles.</p>
<p>Conrad Wilson</p> /
<p>A hallway winds through the NORCOR facility in The Dalles.</p>
<p>NORCOR jail administrator Bryan Brandenburg in his office.</p>
<p>Conrad Wilson</p> /
<p>NORCOR jail administrator Bryan Brandenburg in his office.</p>
<p>NORCOR is a cinder block jail surrounded by a high chain-link fence and razor wire in an industrial section of The Dalles, Oregon.</p>
<p>Conrad Wilson</p> /
<p>NORCOR is a cinder block jail surrounded by a high chain-link fence and razor wire in an industrial section of The Dalles, Oregon.</p>

Copyright 2018 Oregon Public Broadcasting