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Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
SALEM, Ore. — Four Oregon taxpayers filed notice today to the Oregon Court of Appeals that their lawsuit against the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities (NORCOR), a regional jail in The Dalles that had collaborated with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants in violation of Oregon’s historic 1987 Sanctuary Law, is now moot due to the passage of the Sanctuary Promise Act. Signed by Governor Kate Brown last month, this new law strengthens Oregon’s leadership as a place of sanctuary for immigrants, helping ensure that the unjust practices that once took place at NORCOR will not happen again.
The four plaintiffs, represented by lawyers with the Oregon Law Center and Innovation Law Lab, originally sued NORCOR in 2017 after learning that the jail was holding immigrants under a contract with ICE, which appeared to violate Oregon’s 1987 Sanctuary Law.
In February of 2019, the Wasco County Circuit Court ruled that some of the jail’s practices did, in fact, violate Oregon’s Sanctuary Law, which was enacted to prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from participating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The Court ruled, however, that other anti-immigrant NORCOR practices, including its Intergovernmental Service Agreement to detain people in ICE custody, did not violate the law, leading the plaintiffs to take the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals.
In August of 2020, after years of persistent community organizing, the NORCOR board voted to terminate its contract with ICE. The Court had still not resolved the plaintiff’s allegations that NORCOR is a law enforcement agency subject to the 1987 Sanctuary Law, and that NORCOR’s contract with ICE, as well as its policy of notifying ICE of the presence of a foreign-born person upon booking, were both illegal under that law. A question of the plaintiff’s standing was also still disputed.
With the passage of HB 3265, the Sanctuary Promise Act, however, the plaintiffs’ filing argues that their case is now moot. The new law applies to not only law enforcement agencies but all “public bodies,” clearly including NORCOR; it prohibits public and private ICE detention contracts throughout the state; it protects people’s information from being shared with ICE upon booking and under other circumstances; and it creates a private right of action guaranteeing people the right to sue in court if the law is violated, thus resolving the question of standing. The law also prohibits warrantless ICE arrests at courthouses and prevents racial profiling in Oregon jails. According to the Oregon Rules of Appellate Procedure, parties must file a notification of any “facts that probably render an appeal moot.” Today’s filing is made in accordance with that rule.
Connie Krummrich, plaintiff in the lawsuit and member of the NORCOR Community Resources Coalition commented, “We are grateful that the State Legislature agreed with us that it was contrary to the intent of Oregon law for our local jail to be acting as a prison for immigrants. Recognizing that the jail’s revenue from such activities was varying and undependable, we hope to help the leaders at NORCOR achieve a more stable funding base and work to better serve the public safety needs of our communities, including by offering mental health counseling and treatment at the jail. We wish to express our sincere appreciation to Innovation Law Lab, the Oregon Law Center, and to the countless individuals and groups who worked tirelessly over the last four years to make the State of Oregon a national leader in protection of immigrants’ rights.”
A copy of the filing is available here.
Innovation Law Lab is a nonprofit organization that leverages advocacy, technology and law to fight for immigrant and refugee justice. By bringing technology to the fight for justice, Innovation Law Lab empowers advocates to scale their impact and provide effective representation to immigrants in detention and in hostile judicial jurisdictions across the country so that every claim that should win, does win, everywhere, every time.