An email exchange in 2016 indicates the regional jail kept its local inmate population “low” to make room for immigration detainees, according to OPB.
The email exchange, between then Lt. Dan Lindhorst, now the jail’s commander, and an official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were included in court filings that are part of a lawsuit that alleges the ICE contract violates the state’s 1987 sanctuary law.
Former Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility (NORCOR) Administrator Bryan Brandenburg told OPB the regional jail doesn’t lower its county numbers to accommodate immigration detainees. “I know that’s what that email kind of implies. But that’s not the practice and that’s not the policy.”
Lindhorst declined to talk to OPB, citing the lawsuit. Four Wasco County residents sued the jail in 2017, alleging housing immigration detainees violates a state law that bars using local government resources to “detect and apprehend” people whose only offense is being in the country illegally.
In the Sept. 29, 2016 email exchange, Lindhorst wrote, “I see this morning we are down to 26 ICE detainees. Could you please see if you can get these numbers up. We have been keeping the county numbers low to make room for the 40 detainees that you had asked for. If you are not going to use us to that extent, please let me know that as well so I can advise my sheriffs.”
A few hours later ICE official Larry Peterson quickly replied, “Tacoma is working on vetting more detainees to go to NORCOR. I will let you know when they are ready for transfer.”
Lindhorst wrote back, “Thanks, I have been getting pressed for people.”
Peterson then replied, “No problem. I will keep hounding them for more.”
Brandenburg told OPB it was not practice or policy to release county inmates to make room for ICE, and when OPB asked what the policy is, he said there wasn’t a written policy but it was the jail’s practice to not “kick people out in order to make room for ICE.”
Brandenburg told OPB that Lindhorst “shouldn’t have said that. It means he misstated what our policy is.”
He told OPB he couldn’t explain what Lindhorst meant in his email because the email was not reviewed before it was sent. Brandenburg was copied on the email.
Last year, the jail got $908,000 to house immigration detainees.
Gilliam County Sheriff Gary Bettencourt told OPB that the ICE contract has never prevented someone arrested locally from getting booked into jail.