Over the last month, 123 immigrants seeking asylum have been detained and transferred to Oregon’s Sheridan federal prison in Yamhill County. The majority of the 123 people in the Sheridan prison are South Asian, who speak primarily Hindi and Punjabi, and a few identified as Chinese. As reported in The Oregonian, several identified themselves as Sikhs or Christians fleeing religious persecution. These detainees are isolated, have limited access to interpretation, and are at-risk of abuse in their current prison housing arrangement.
President Donald Trump’s new “zero-tolerance” policy that prosecutes and separates families of anyone unauthorized to enter the country, including people leaving their native country as a political refugee to seek asylum protection is cruel and inhumane. The damage caused by this policy – children in makeshift shelters, overflowing detention centers, and human rights violations – represent a humanitarian crisis that has now hit Oregonians in our backyard.
“2,000 kids have been separated from their families, some for 2 months. This is the definition of cruel and unusual,” said Susheela Jayapal, Commissioner-Elect for Multnomah County, adding, “This policy of family separation needs to end now; and in the meantime, all detainees deserve legal representation and fair treatment, starting with transparency about their children’s whereabouts and humane detention conditions.”
A rapid legal response effort is underway led by Innovation Law Lab and the Oregon chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. APANO is connecting with local South Asian communities and our One Oregon Coalition to raise further awareness and support for the detainees, and tonight APANO will be going to Sheridan with community partners to demand an end to immigration policy that separates families and show support for detainees, their full rights, and transparency on their children’s location and plans for reunification. We invite APANO members to join us Wednesday June 20th for a World Refugee Day Vigil in Portland, to be in solidarity with our refugees, asylees, DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) communities, and we call on our members, supporters, and allies to stand with immigrants and demand justice for separated families.
Take action with us:
- Show up: Join us for a Mourn, Pray and Take Action Vigil at Terry Shrunk Plaza by Portland City Hall on World Refugee Day – Wednesday, June 20th 6-8pm.
- Donate: Innovation Law Lab is raising money for coordination of a massive legal response effort to get Know Your Rights information and access to attorneys to all 123 detainees. Unidos Bridging Community is accepting donations toward support for Sheridan detainees such as commissary funds and phone cards
- Volunteer: A variety of volunteers are needed to support the legal response effort including legal and mental health professionals and interpreters for multiple languages. Fill out this survey if you would like to volunteer.
- Sign and Share: Join the One Oregon petition to #EndFamilySeparation and spread the word via social media.
To stay connected with APANO’s efforts in this area, please contact our community organizer Jai Singh, [email protected] or call 971-340-4861.