Photo taken by Doug Brown

Abel Tovar Hernandez, 32, was born in Mexico. When he was 10 months old, he moved to the United States with his father, a U.S. citizen, and has lived here ever since. Mr. Tovar Hernandez has been a U.S. citizen since April 2000 – nearly two years before ICE was created – and was granted a passport and social security card.

In March 2020, Mr. Tovar Hernandez was houseless and was arrested for taking a pair of socks from a department store. After serving a short sentence for a probation violation at the Washington County Jail, he was told he was being released to his mother who was waiting for him outside. However, instead of taking him to the normal exit, jail officials handed him over to two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who were waiting in the jail’s sally port. The ICE agents arrested Mr. Tovar Hernandez, transported him to NORCOR (a regional Oregon jail operated by Wasco, Hood River, Sherman, and Gilliam counties), mocked him along the way, then handed him over to the NORCOR’s custody. For two days, NORCOR officials imprisoned Mr. Tovar Hernandez on behalf of ICE until his attorney was finally able to get him free.  

Oregon has a long-standing sanctuary law that prohibits local government resources and entities from being used to help ICE. Furthermore, both the Oregon and United States constitutions protect everyone, regardless of their citizenship status, from unreasonable seizures. This case seeks to hold Washington County, NORCOR, and ICE accountable for violating the rights protected by these essential laws.