On April 16, 2014, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton joined other sheriffs from Clackamas and Washington countries by announcing that they would no longer comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to keep undocumented immigrants in jail for deportation. This came after a U.S. Districts Court judge ruled that Clackamas County had violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by keeping her jail longer than her two day sentence. As a result of the decision of Sheriff Staton, other counties in Oregon have followed.
Immigration detainer or ICE holds are a routine request from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the Oregon sheriffs detain a person beyond the time the person would otherwise be released. As a result of these holds, hundreds of families were torn apart, immigrants were afraid to report crime minimizing community safety, and tax payers were subjugated to paying $168 per night for each inmate in jail. According to the Oregonian, from January 1, 2011 to August 31, 2012, ICE’s policies resulted in 1,465 holds in Multnomah County, all of which was due to sheriffs like Staton believing that ICE holds were mandatory when in fact they are not.
All of this changed on April 11, 2014, when Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart, U.S. Districts Court for the District of Oregon ruled that Clackamas County was liable for violating Maria Miranda-Olivares Constitutional rights. Ms. Miranda-Olivares filed her lawsuit in March 2012 after being unlawfully held in jail for two weeks. David Henretty, a former Voz Executive Board member and the attorney representing Maria stated that, “This case makes clear that if a county decides to hold a person beyond lawful custody on the charges, that extended incarceration must satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The presence of a request from ICE to prolong the incarceration does not overcome this fundamental right.” Ms. Miranda-Olivares now awaits a trial to determine the amount of her damages.
Despite the influential court case, much of why Sheriff Staton changed his policy on ICE holds was thanks to Voz and their partner, Activists Coming Together for Justice and Dignity (the ACT Network) who have been working diligently over the past two years to put a stop to the unlawful holdings. Voz and the ACT Network have pressured Sheriff Staton to change his policies through the use of rallies, letter writing, and community forums that showcased the stories of brave undocumented community members impacted by ICE holds.
This ruling was the tipping point after years of pressure and awareness by the ACT Network. As a result sheriffs across Oregon stepped up to put a stop to ICE holds stating they would no longer comply with ICE requests. Immediately following Sheriff Staton’s decision 50 immigration holds were lifted for jail inmates in the Portland area and is expected to affect hundreds of Multnomah County inmates within the next year. Given Sheriff Staton’s new policies, families will no longer have to fear being torn apart, communities will be safer, and tax payer’s money can go to more productive community activities.