Vigil draws protesters to Sheridan prison holding ICE detainees - KPTV - FOX 12

Vigil draws protesters to Sheridan prison holding ICE detainees

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A sea of protesters, signs in hand, rallied at the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Sheridan facility Monday to show support to those on the other side of the barbed wire fence, and outrage over new Department of Justice policies putting them there.

Hundreds attended the vigil held by various religious and immigrant advocacy groups.

Rebecca Wieringa came down from Portland with her family to the rural Yamhill County facility.

“I believe as Americans we can and should do better,” Wieringa said. “It’s not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue –so this shouldn’t be about politics at all – it should be about the fact that kids and parents should be together.”

While protesters were passionate about immigrant rights on many fronts, most were furious over what has kindled fierce debate across the country: The Department of Justice’s new zero tolerance policy separating more children from their parents.

“When people like (Attorney General) Jeff Sessions quote the Bible, as they rip children from their parents, and separate them like this – there’s a special place in Hell for people like him,” said protester Susan Towers. 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed to FOX 12 that the 123 detainees being held at the Sheridan facility are at least partially the result of the zero-tolerance policy. The men were moved to the facility over the last month. 

An ICE spokeswoman said the DOJ directive, along with a surge in illegal border crossings, have led to full detention centers. ICE is now partnering with federal prisons and other facilities to temporarily meet demands for more beds. 

The Sheridan prison was first put in the spotlight by Democratic lawmakers.

Oregon congressional Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley toured the facility over the weekend and told reporters that some of the detained men were seeking asylum, were torn from their families and don’t have access to medical care, phones or legal advice. 

While ICE representatives didn’t answer FOX 12’s specific questions about the treatment of detainees, they said the men are under Federal Bureau of Prison authority and must follow the same guidelines and rules as the prisoners sentenced to the facility. However, in a statement, an ICE spokeswoman said, “ICE is working with (Federal Bureau of Prisons) to permit additional phone calls and visitation for ICE detainees at these facilities.”

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