ICE Agreement with Springfield Melts Away

City Council cancels contract to house detainees in municipal jail

Cheering and clapping exploded inside Springfield’s City Hall the evening of Monday, June 25. It was applause because, after more than 90 minutes of emotional discussion from the public, Springfield City Council voted unanimously to end a contract with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to house federal immigration detainees at the city’s jail.

The council’s decision ended an agreement the city has had with ICE since 2012. And the decision may bring some small reassurance to immigrant community members who have been facing increased scrutiny of their status under the Trump Administration.

Mayor Christine Lundberg had earlier said the council would consider allowing Springfield Municipal Jail to only temporarily hold detainees with current criminal charges or criminal history.

On Tuesday, June 26, ICE was notified that the Springfield Municipal Jail would no longer provide temporary confinement of detainees, according to Niel Laudati, the city’s legislative and public affairs manager.

ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell says the agency doesn’t have a facility in Oregon that would replace the Springfield Jail, which served as a waypoint when transferring detainees to a detention center in Tacoma, Washington. ICE, she said, must now dedicate more resources for transportation, “which steers resources away from apprehending at-large criminal aliens, negatively impacting public safety.”

The decision came as a surprise for Johanis Tadeo, an organizer with Springfield Alliance for Equality and Respect, a program by Community Alliance of Lane County. He thought the City Council’s vote would be split, which would force Lundberg to break a tie. But, he adds, when he heard each councilor unravel their support to end the contract with ICE, he was in tears.

“If we can find an arrangement that the community can feel safe by calling [the police] and having them come for what we’re calling them for, then we can have a step forward,” Tadeo says. “Hopefully they keep their word in wanting to reach out to us.”

Councilor Sean VanGordon initially supported the contract with ICE. He says he thought last week that the City Council would go through with the decision and let things calm down. However, he says, he realized that issues related to immigration wouldn’t calm down. This past weekend he began to change his mind about the ICE agreement because he wants to make sure all people of the Springfield community feel comfortable calling the police.

Councilor Joe Pishioneri, a former Lane County sheriff’s deputy with a degree in criminal justice, voted to end the agreement but added a statement of dissent. He says his duty is to protect the Springfield community and that he would support an agreement with ICE only if it targeted those arrested or convicted of a felony crime or Class A misdemeanor.

The crowd heckled him after his statement, prompting Lundberg to issue a warning to the audience.

Many Springfield residents at the June 25 City Council meeting expressed their fear of living in Springfield with ICE’s presence.

“You cannot trust an entity whose sole mission is to deport and detain and mutilate and do so much damage to families and communities in a really targeted way,” Mariana (whose last name is withheld due to her immigration status) said during the public comment period. “If you look at the faces of who’s in those cells, they don’t look like you. They look like me. I’m still undocumented. I still live in fear. I don’t feel safe being in Springfield.”

She isn’t the only person in the city who had fears from the agreement with ICE. Before the Monday meeting, Tadeo invited EW and Councilor Leonard Stoehr on a tour of Springfield to talk with Latino community members.

One undocumented immigrant, who also withheld his name for his safety, says nobody feels calm about having ICE in Springfield. There’s a fear that they can grab you when you’re going to work, he says. He adds that last year he and his family were so fearful about leaving their house that they couldn’t go to the grocery store for 10 days.

Local Latino businesses, including Erica’s Meat Market, say that their clientele has decreased over the past year.

Springfield Police Chief Rick Lewis tells EW the department has hired a Spanish-speaking outreach coordinator, Chris Solares, who will work with the city’s residents, including Latino community members, to ensure they can have a positive relationship with the police department.

Lewis adds that whenever he’s out in the community he tells people that ICE isn’t involved at all when police respond to calls.

Springfield City Council considered making a significant change that would limit holding undocumented immigrants for crimes such as aggravated federal felonies, federal felonies, state felonies and specific misdemeanors such as DUIIs, stalking and third-degree misdemeanors like domestic violence.

According to documents obtained by EW, Springfield Municipal Jail has charged ICE $80 per bed. The city’s jail had billed ICE for using 117 beds for detainees at a total of $8,720 for 2017.

Although Springfield will end the contract, Lewis confirmed that the police department would still have to distribute names of detained inmates to all federal agencies, including ICE.