Springfield jail holds ICE detainees

Chief Rick Lewis said community members have nothing to worry about.

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 6:11 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- The Springfield Police Department holds U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement detainees in the Springfield Municipal Jail and some community members are upset about it.

The police department has had a contract with ICE since 2012. Chief Richard Lewis said it helps offset the cost of the jail. He said they also rent out beds to the U.S. Marshal's Office and other municipalities like Eugene and Coburg. 

Lewis said the number of detainees they have can range anywhere from 20 to 60 in a year, depending on how many ICE sends them. 
He said they only hold the detainees for one to three days, and they can come from anywhere in southern Oregon. 

So far this fiscal year the department has made about $7,000 from the contract and last year they made between $4,000 and $5,000, Lewis said.

Lewis said his department has been transparent about the contract and doesn't see a problem.

"What I want communities to understand is that our law enforcement officers, our patrol officers on the street, do not go out and assist ICE in these kind of immigration things," Lewis said. "We are simply providing confinement services for people ICE has arrested and brought to our attention."

Since the department is not arresting or detaining people based on their status, Lewis said, this does not violate any state laws.

Others aren't so sure.

"It does go against the spirit of the law because it creates distrust and anxiety and fear with the police department," Juan Carlos Valle, the interim state director for LULAC, a civil rights organization, said. "If I were them, that would be enough to pull that contract."

Others said it might be hard for some to make the distinction between ICE and the Springfield Police because of cultural and linguistic barriers.

"I don't think it's going to be understood easily because of the cultural barriers and the experiences these individuals have had in their countries of origin," David Sáez, the executive director for Centro Latino Americano, said. "When you link Springfield Police and ICE together in any way, it automatically says 'Well, that's not a safe group of people to report to.'"

There is an ongoing court case in a different municipality in Oregon regarding the same issue. Lewis said he will pay attention to what the court decides and will respond accordingly.

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