BACKGROUND | TIMELINE | DETAINEES | HOW TO HELP

Last updated Tuesday, July 17, 11am PST

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BACKGROUND

Yamhill County is home to the only Federal Correctional Institution in Oregon, in Sheridan.


FCI Sheridan is a medium security prison for male inmates, with a smaller minimum security “camp” also on grounds.  Sheridan FCI has 1,256 total inmates, with an additional 518 housed at the Camp for a total of 1774 inmates at Sheridan.

The Bureau of Prisons is under the Department of Justice (led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions).  Bureau of Prisons is currently led by an acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons by the name of Hugh Hurwitz, who was appointed as Acting Director on May 18, 2018, following the abrupt resignation of Mark S. Inch on May 17.

The Warden at FCI Sheridan was Richard B. Ives, but Ives left Sheridan sometime between the end of March and June, 2018.  He was replaced in June by Josias Salazar, a career correctional institution administrator.  Warden Salazar was at a prison in California prior to coming to Oregon, and in Arizona about 7 years prior to California. 

Asylum is an internationally granted protection for people fleeing unsafe conditions in their home countries.  All countries must consider asylum cases, they not required to grant asylum to all asylum seekers.   With limited exceptions, people must apply for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States.  There is no way to apply for asylum without being in the United States or at the border. The process of seeking asylum can take years to conclude.  Hundreds of thousands of cases are heard each year, and the average case has been pending for 718 days as of March 2018.

Though various departments in the government have provided differing information, it is clear that the steep increase in border detentions is as a result of a policy change in April 2018.  President Trump has said the law requires him to separate families, which is not true.

ICE detention standards include allowing visitation – “Detainees shall be able to receive visits from legal representatives, consular officials and others in the community. “ – and access to information about available lawyers – “ICE/ERO shall provide each facility the official list of local free legal service providers, updated quarterly by the local DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review. The facility shall promptly and prominently post the current list in detainee housing units and other appropriate areas.

What’s the impact of all the attention on Sheridan? Local residents spoke to OPB about this on June 20th.  Several highlighted the challenges the transfer has caused for Sheridan resident who work at the prison, and now feel under prepared for the challenge of managing a separate population which speaks 32 different languages.

TIMELINE

On April 6th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions published a memorandum directing federal prosecutors to ” adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy for all offenses referred for prosecution under section 1325(a).”

On May 29th, a contract between Bureau of Prisons and ICE was signed.  The contract is signed by a BOP employee named Loneryl C. Burns, who works in DC (this may be because at the time there was no Warden in place in Sheridan).  The contract requires:

  • The contract runs for 1 year, from May 29, 2018 – May 29, 2019
  • It is for 130 adult male ICE detainees, at the price of $88.78/day per detainee, not to exceed $4,212,611.00 in the year
  • Bureau of Prisons has “sole discretion to approve or reject each detainee from ICE”… “the Warden will have the final decision concerning such matters”
  • “While in BOP custody, a transferred detainee shall be subject to the BOP’s rules and regulations consistent with BOP’s policies for pre-trial detainees and the laws, rules, and regulations of ICE”
  • “ICE shall ensure that it’s transferred detainees have been advised of appropriate procedures to follow in raising concerns related to their confinement”
  • “Requests to interview ICE detainees will be approved solely by ICE, and if the interviews are to take place at FCI Sheridan, will be handled in accordance with BOP policy.”
  • “ICE detainees shall have equal opportunities for institutional programming and education and access to legal materials as provided to other pre-trial detainees at the FCI”
  • “This agreement may be terminated by mutual written agreement or by either party upon 60 days advanced written notice to the other party, or sooner by signatory concurrence of both parties.”

June 7, 2018, news broke that US authorities would be transferring 1600 ICE detainees to federal prisons as a result of a change in border policy that drastically increased the number of people being separated from their families and forceably detained. The prison received only one day’s notice that the detainees would be arriving, doubling the size of the prison population.

The ACLU lawsuit filed on June 22 states that men detained at the border were transferred to FCI Sheridan “on or around June 8”.  A petition filed on behalf of a Honduran detainee states he has been in Sheridan since June 1.

FCI Sheridan received 123 men from India, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Guatemala, Ukraine, and Mexico, among other countries. Details are sketchy but what we have is listed below.

On June 10th, 52 people participated in a rally on an overpass near the prison, to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with the detainees.

On June 14th, McMinnville hosted a “Families Belong Together” march in association with a nationwide effort to draw attention to family separations at the border.  More than 200 people marched through McMinnville and many attended following event to hear an update on the situation in Sheridan and an update on immigration policy along the border.

On June 15th, ACLU Oregon and Innovation Law Lab sent a letter to the director of ICE.  Federal employees in the FCI in Victorville, CA, protested unsafe working conditions as a result of the transfer of 1,000 detainees with little notice or preparation.

On June 16th, a congressional delegation of Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressman Blumenauer and Congresswoman Bonamici were able to visit the prison and meet with several detainees.

On June 17th, Senator Ron Wyden met with the pro bono Immigration lawyers at Innovation Law Lab and gave a press conference which you can watch here.

On June 18th, 1,245 people converged for a vigil outside the prison fence.

This week, The ACLU of Oregon submitted a FOIA request this week seeking information on the decision to move the people now at the federal prison in Sheridan and any policies or guidelines for handling the detention of immigrants there.

On June 19th, we learned that some of the men claim to have sought asylum by appearing at a port of entry and addressing Border Patrol, only to be detained.  One day prior, on June 18th, DHS Secretary Nielsen claimed that this was NOT happening to people legitimately seeking asylum.

On June 20th, President Trump announced that he would “sign something” to end child-parent separation at the border.  It is unclear how this will impact the detainees in Sheridan and other federal prisons around the country, or their children.  He also announced that legislators were no longer allowed to visit detention centers without 2 weeks notice and approval.

Also on June 20th, we learned that 4 children who had been separated from their parents at the border were now in custody of an Oregon shelter.  None of them are reported to have family members detained here in Oregon, however.

On June 21st, lawyers were again, twice, denied entry to the prison and refused any access to speak with the detainees.  Faith leaders with Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice held a press conference this morning, expressing their frustration at being blocked from visiting the detainees to offer support, counseling, and religious rites.

Also on June 21st, Washington State Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal hosted a hearing where Oregon Representative Bonamici said, “several of them came to this country with children, sometimes with a spouse. They all thought that they entered at an appropriate border crossing.”

On June 22nd, lawyers for the ACLU of Oregon filed a lawsuit asking a judge to force ICE and Bureau of Prisons to allow detained immigrants access to lawyers.  Read the lawsuit here.  See the press conference here.

Also on June 22nd, Public defender Lisa Hay, who has had the most legal contact with the detainees but whose scope covers only the conditions in which they are being held (and not their immigration status or proceedings) filed a petition in court asking a judge to release Santos Osortos-Chicos, a 27 year old Honduran citizen. (source)

On Sunday, June 23rd, several hundred people gathered for a prayer service at the park near Sheridan prison.  Faith leaders say detainees in the prison have not been granted access to clergy or religious services since they were detained a month ago.  Public defender Lisa Hay stated that she had had to halt interviews with detainees due to an outbreak of scabies in the prison.  She has so far met with 66 of the 123 men and had planned to meet with 29 more on Wednesday, June 20 before BOP cancelled the meeting due to the outbreak.

On Monday, June 24th, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ruled that lawyers must be allowed access to the immigrants detained in the federal prison. (Unrelated but something to be aware of:  Judge Simon is married to Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who has been a vocal opponent of the new immigration policy).  The judge’s decree also keeps ICE from proceeding with any asylum interviews or hearings until the detainees has been given adequate legal counsel.  Before a screening can take place, the detainee must have had the opportunity to attend a “Know Your Rights” training session conducted by the Law Lab and consult with their attorney, according to the decision. Lawyers will now be able to visit daily, using two rooms for up to 6 hours a day. Four phone lines must be available which can call out to legal services from 8am-8pm each day.  The order also bans ICE from transferring the detainees out of state (source).

There are now only 121 detainees, two have been transferred elsewhere for medical attention.  A lawyer for the federal government claimed on Monday that “detainees hadn’t been able to meet with attorneys previously due to “safety concerns” at the Sheridan facility.

“The right to counsel, which allows a person to receive timely legal advice, is firmly entrenched in the concept of due process and protected by the Fifth Amendment against governmental interference,” Simon wrote in his order. “Further, this right is available to everyone in the United States, not just citizens or others who are here lawfully.”

Other news coverage:

There will be a follow-up hearing on July 2, at 10am.

On June 25th, Yamhill County based hate group (according to the SPLC) Oregonians for Immigration Reform released a statement calling the issue “hub bub”: “We’re seeing right now this big hub bub about the issue of children being separated from their parents when they cross the border illegally, well, any time somebody breaks the law and they’re incarcerated, they’re always separated from their children,” said Jim Ludwick, a spokesman for Oregonians for Immigration Reform. (source)  Yamhill County State Representative Mike Nearman is a Vice President of the board of OFIR.

Tuesday, June 26th, 33 of the detained immigrants were able to meet with lawyers, most for the first time since they were detained nearly a month ago.  Groups of the men were given 20-minute presentations consisting of a general overview of immigrants’ rights and the process of receiving asylum in the United States.  Lawyers said at least 64 of the men are seeking asylum, and they expect that number to get higher once they have a chance to meet with all of the detainees.

Also on Tuesday, 17 states filed a lawsuit against Trump administration over family separations, including Oregon and Washington.  The 128-page complaint is published.

On Monday July 2, lawyers for the Bureau of Prisons and the ACLU met again with US District Judge Michael Simon for a check-in on the status of his decision the previous Monday.  50 of the 121 men detained have been able to have ‘know your rights’ presentations from immigration lawyers, but access has continued to be difficult.  Simon concluded that the federal government was not providing adequate time to meet with the detainees — 6 hours/day was ordered previously.  Lawyers are also not certain that the working phone line, also required by the judge, has been provided.  Because the orders were not followed, Simon decided not to lift the temporary retraining order, keeping it as originally ordered, until July 23rd.  There will be another follow-up meeting before the judge on Friday, July 6th.

Video interview with one of the ILL Lawyers after the Monday hearing.

On Tuesday July 3rd, more documents related to the lawsuit filed by 17 states were released and covered in a livethread by reporter @KlasfeldReports.  Key sections related to Oregon include Oregon’s head of OHA testifying that “It is possible that children who are detained by the federal government in Oregon may not be in DHS custody and may not qualify for any healthcare programs and/or coverage in Oregon.”  An ODE representative testified that children in Oregon are legally entitled to a public education.  A lawyer with Oregon’s DOJ testified that he made several attempts to contact Sheridan Prison without receiving any calls back.  A representative of Oregon’s Department of Human Services testifies that the children may ultimately end up in Oregon’s foster care system.  Oregon State Representative Earl Blumenauer testified about his experience interviewing the 123 men then held in Sheridan prison.

As of Friday, July 6th, Innovation Law Lab shared that all 121 men still detained in Sheridan Prison have now received “know your rights presentations” from immigration attorneys. More than 100 have requested counsel (source).

On Friday, July 13, Innovation Law Lab shared this update:

  • 113 individuals received Know Your Rights presentations (we did not meet with individuals who at the time of initial access indicated they had private counsel)
  • 16 individuals have so far indicated they have private counsel or have declined counsel
  • 85 individuals have received one-on-one screening interviews
  • 40 individuals have received follow up consultations
  • 44 formal appearances of counsel have been filed, with an anticipated total 100 notices of appearance to be filed by mid next week
  • Starting Monday, July 16, attorneys and legal assistants will be able to pass legal documents in a #10 envelope to clients during legal visits. 


As of Monday, July 16th, Innovation Law Lab has further reported that since being granted access:

  • Volunteer teams have been working inside Sheridan everyday Monday-Saturday to continue screenings and follow-up interviews
  • 116 men attended Know Your Rights workshops
  • 77 follow up screening interviews have been completed
  • Thanks to many volunteers and a newly hired volunteer coordinator
  • (thank you for your patience if you signed up and haven’t been contacted, and if you haven’t yet but want to, sign up here!), ILL teams can conduct up to 16 attorney-client interviews and defend up to 12 fear interviews or immigration hearings each day.
  • Language services have been provided in Spanish, Punjabi, Nepali, Hindi, Bengali, Tigrinya, Pulaar, Portuguese, and Mandarin.  Orientation and preparation materials are now available in 6 different languages for clients.
  • ILL now has a base of operations in Sheridan for volunteers where orientation and debriefing takes place.
  • Partnerships are finalizing with Oregon community-based organizations, APANO and Unidos Bridging Community, to mobilize volunteers to populate several key teams, among them
    • OTG team (daily interviews & screenings)
    • Rep Team (defending fear interviews & IJ reviews)
    • Data Entry team
    • BorderX teams (to work on release motions / parole requests)
  • Local community partners are coordinating a Post-Detention Respite Network for individuals who are released into the community.
  • ILL has coordinated with colleagues in Seattle and Victorville, CA who are also defending the rights of detained immigrants in federal prisons.
  • ILL is seeking academic experts to provide important declarations for the highly-politicized Central American fear screenings & are preparing materials for South Asia.  We are still seeking more, please send them our way.

ILL has negotiated a reasonable notification process & reasonable access protocol with the asylum office for fear interviews.  Credible Fear hearings begin for the Sheridan detainees on July 17th and are expected to continue every business day for the next 3 weeks.

DETAINEES

Information is scarce about the 123 men being held in FCI Sheridan.  Attorneys have had difficulty gaining access to speak to the detainees.  ICE says the agency is working to get detainees legal representation, (source) but pro bono lawyers from Innovation Law Lab who have offered their support have not been granted access as recently as Monday, June 18th.  A lawyer with the Mexican Consolate was able to speak to some of the men from Mexico.  Another lawyer, federal defense lawyer Lisa Hay, was able to speak to 66 of the detainees. (source)  Her scope only covers their conditions in the prison, and not their immigration status. (source)

We know the names of two of the men in Sheridan so far:

  • Santos Osortos-Chicos is 27, from Honduras.  He says he reported to the border station at San Ysidro, California, and declared he was seeking asylum from chaos and death threats in Honduras.  His son was taken away, and he was transferred to Sheridan. His 9 year old son is in a federal detention center in Los Angeles.  His wife and other child crossed the border 3 weeks before Osortos-Chicos and his 9 year old son; they are not in custody. (source)
  • Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez is from Mexico.  He, his two children (1, and 5) and his partner Xochitl Ramos Valencia crossed the border with him but were not detained.  He sought asylum.  Here is a photo of him. While in detention he has been allowed only one 3-minute phone call with his family.

This is what we know currently about the rest of the detainees:

    • Both Sheridan prison officials and ICE claim that the detainees are subject to regular Bureau of Prisons regulations and treatment. (source)(also per personal phone call with the prison)
    • ICE regulations apparently require all visitors to be placed on a list by detainees before anyone can be allowed to meet with the detainees.  How the detainees would get the names of people who could meet with them, in a language that they understood, has not been clarified by ICE.
    • “ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell told WW that the men would be moved on Friday from two housing units that they share with Sheridan inmates into a detainee-only housing unit. That would allow the prison to “enhance access to recreation time,” Cutrell said in an email.” (source; June 23)
    • Public defender Lisa Hay stated that she had had to halt interviews with detainees due to an outbreak of scabies in the prison.
    • They are held 3 to a cell, sometimes with other men who do not speak their language. They are allowed 1 or 2 hours outside their cell per day. (source) Their free time may be only in 15 minute increments. (source)
    • They may at times be held in chains. (source)
    • The Sikh detainees have had their turbans taken away (source) (source).  This is counter to federal prison policy (source).  Turbans are an article of faith for orthodox Sikhs (source).
    • Sheridan Prison has not offered culturally sensitive food options, particularly to the majority of the men who are religious Sikhs fleeing persecution at home.  They are vegetarian and have been offered food containing meat.  This may have changed since the ACLU’s suit brought attention to the issues in the prison. (source)
    • The Indian Consolate has offered assistance to return the 52 men to India, but “Despite the inhuman conditions these inmates are living in, none of them are willing to go back home.” (source)
    • A majority of Indians detained are Sikhs from Punjab. Lawyers who have met them said some of them were Hindus from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. (source)
    • Some of them may be under the age of 20. (source) (source)
    • The prison does not have the resources to house ICE detainees alongside pre-trial inmates who are normally held in the facility. (source)
    • The detainees have no money in their prison accounts to pay for pay phones and cannot contact immigration attorneys.
    • The phone system in the prison is broken.  Incompatibility between BOP and ICE telephone systems  is preventing ICE detainees at the BOP facility from accessing legal services. (source)
    • At least one man is a parent, with a child as young as 18 months, who has not received information about the wellbeing or location of his child since he was detained weeks ago. (source)  His name is Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez, and he was a plaintiff in the ACLU’s case.  He was separated from his two children and his partner when claiming asylum at a port of entry along the US-Mexico border. (source) (source)
    • At least some of the detainees claim to have attempted to enter the country by seeking asylum legally at a port of entry by directly approaching Border Patrol. (source)
    • The detainees may not be receiving adequate medical care – one man showed the congressional delegation an open wound on his leg which he said came from a gunshot in his home country. (source)
    • Around June 22-25, two detainees were transferred out of the prison for medical attention. (source)
    • The detainees in Sheridan come from 16 different countries and speak 12 different languages.  33 of them are Spanish speaking, the other 90 speak other languages.
      • 52 from India.  Most are Sikh or Christian (source).
      • 18 from Nepal (source)
      • 12 from Guatemala (source)
      • 10 from Mexico (source), at least one of whom has been separated from his 5 and 18 month old children (source).  Initially, 5 told consulate officials they did not know where their families were, but the consulate has located them.  None of the men from Mexico was separated from their families at the border.(source)
      • 7 from Honduras – at least 1 is gay (source)
      • 5 from China (source)
      • 5 from Eritrea
      • 3 from Armenia
      • 2 from Bangladesh
      • 2 from Mauritania
      • 2 from Peru
      • 1 from El Salvador
      • 1 from Brazil
      • 1 from Cameroon
      • 1 from Russia
      • 1 from Nicaragua
      • Updated source of Country of claimed origin.

HOW TO HELP