On the evening of June 11, 2018 over 60 concerned community members–lawyers, activists, clergy, mothers, fathers–came together to kick off a statewide organizing effort in response to the unjust detention of immigrants at the federal penitentiary in Sheridan, Oregon.
Miriam Vargas Corona, Executive Director of Unidos Bridging Community, a nonprofit in Yamhill County (where FCI Sheridan is located), described how on Sunday, June 10, the community held a rally on an overpass near FCI Sheridan. Over 50 people attended to protest the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy,” which has resulted in the separation of immigrant families and rapidly expanded the practice of immigrant detention. Unidos Bridging Community issued a statement, echoing the demand that the individuals detained be allowed access to legal services.
“The legal response to Sheridan must be powerful and strong,” explained Stephen Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab. “With our pro bono teams, we will aim to represent everyone so that justice can be served.” He explained that 123 adult immigrants, all male, are currently at FCI Sheridan. There are also confirmed cases of family separation. As of the Monday community meeting, attorneys wishing to provide legal counsel had not been granted access to meet with immigrants at FCI Sheridan, despite their attempts to visit the facility.
Several representatives from Oregon’s Congressional delegation shared that Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, together with House members Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, had that day demanded that ICE immediately allow individuals at FCI Sheridan to access legal services through free phone calls.
Members of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) and the larger faith community, as well as members of the Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC), participated in the event and have committed to organizing statewide community and clergy responses to detention of individuals by ICE in the federal prison in Oregon.
For individuals wishing to volunteer in the legal response network, a survey has been created to capture volunteer information. We anticipate a need for attorneys, legal assistants, translators, medical professionals, and clergy. We also anticipate a need for office space near FCI Sheridan, local lodging, and financial support to sustain this grassroots effort.
Donations to support the legal response network may be directed to the Innovation Law Lab. Please make a note in the comments section that your gift is intended to support the Sheridan effort. Donations for general organizing and advocacy efforts, as well as funds for telephone cards and commissary needs for the individuals detained, may be directed to Unidos Bridging Community.
The community meeting was organized by Oregon Ready, a coalition of organizations working to advance immigrant inclusion. Oregon Ready is responsible for Oregon’s Rights Architecture and coordinates and supports work throughout the state to create permanent pathways to immigrant inclusion.
Organizations present at the forum included the Oregon Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association, Innovation Law Lab, Causa, and Unidos Bridging Community. In attendance were representatives from a number of Oregon-based organizations, including Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition (PIRC), Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), the Oregon chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), and Catholic Charities of Oregon. Staffers from the following congressional offices were also present: Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Ron Wyden, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Representative Suzanne Bonamici. Special thanks to the First Unitarian Church of Portland for hosting the meeting.
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