Progress made, but pressure still needed, on releasing detained asylum seekers in Oregon


 Since Oregon’s Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice’s (IMIrJ) began its August call-to-action protesting the continued detention of asylum-seekers in federal prison here, some positive steps have been made, but organizers say there’s still more work to be done.

In weekly vigils/rallies/protests outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Portland in August, nine faith leaders from different denominations – including United Methodists – have been arrested so far protesting ICE officials unwillingness’ to meet with faith leaders and release prisoners.

IMIrJ has one last rally and protest scheduled today (Aug. 30) at Caruthers Park.

“I think some of the pressure is working,” said Sarah Loose, senior lead organizer with IMIrJ.

Loose said some of the 120 asylum-seekers detained by ICE at the Sheridan Federal Correctional facility have been released, while others have been deported. Between 60 to 80 individuals still remain in custody.

Leaders met with Elizabeth Godfrey, acting regional director for ICE and Oregon U.S. Attorney Billy Williams on Aug. 23.

“It was a tough meeting,” Loose said. “It just felt like there are some fundamentally different world views.”

After this week’s events, Loose said IMIrJ will continue to fight for the release of asylum-seekers, but is also working to mobilize churches and individuals around the state to fight against Oregon Ballot Measure 105.

Measure 105 would repeal the state sanctuary law which forbids state agencies, including law enforcement, from using state resources or personnel to detect or apprehend persons whose only violation of the law is that of federal immigration law.

Passage of Measure 105 would allow any law enforcement agency to use agency funds, equipment, and personnel to detect and apprehend people whose only violation of the law is a violation of federal immigration law.

Loose said IMIrJ will be sending toolkits to faith communities detailing how to discuss Measure 105 with their congregations, recognizing the difficulty of the subject matter within congregations of differing opinions.

“It’s so polarized and so charged,” she said.

Then starting in October, IMIrJ will conduct a pilgrimage from the Sheridan to the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles, where ICE detainees have also been housed.

More information on upcoming IMIrJ events can be found on the website www.imirj.org.