PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Seven people who were held at the federal prison in Sheridan while seeking asylum were released on bond and 5 of them — all from India — spoke publicly Wednesday.
For the past 3 months, these men, who said they were fleeing persecution, were held at the Oregon prison. One of them, Karandeep Singh, said he despaired while in Sheridan.
“In the beginning, I have no hope,” Singh told members of the media in Portland. He thanked the Innovation Law Lab, which worked alongside the ACLU to win their releases.
“Now I feel like it’s a dream. I can’t even think. I’m very happy to be here,” he said.
All of these men were detained at the southern US border coming through Mexico.
In June, the ACLU of Oregon filed an emergency lawsuit to force the government to allow the detainees access to legal help.
In July, the detainees reported overcrowding, hunger, and depression in five lawsuits filed in Oregon’s federal district court.
Watch the press conference with the 5 men who were released
The Innovation Law Lab turned to the immigration court system to get the men out on bond.
The organization’s Katy Mitchell said that when one of them left Sheridan, “this young man got on his knees, kissed the ground and asked, ‘Is this real?'”
But the bond process is expensive. The Innovation Law Lab said bond can range from $1500 to $5000.
“That’s why there’s a delay in some people being released,” she said. “Their family members and friends need that time to gather that money together to pay for the bond.”
The now-released men will wait for the immigration court.
Speaking through an interpreter, one of the men said that now on the outside of Sheridan, the future seems brighter.
“I’m so glad I’m here. I can’t tell you how happy I am.”
The men will travel to friends and family across the country. None had any ties to Oregon.
Depending on where they’re going, though, they may have better or worse chances of being granted asylum.
One man, for instance, is headed to Georgia. The ACLU of Oregon said immigration judges there rarely grant asylum.