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In Washington state, a campaign to end official violence against immigrants

La Resistencia  |  Issue: January 2020
immigration activists in Tacoma

Activists take the “Close the NWDC” campaign to the Chambers of the City of Tacoma.
PHOTO: Maru Mora Villalpando


In October, La Resistencia, a grassroots organization dedicated to the abolition of immigrant detention, coordinated the launch of a campaign to end immigrant detention in the state of Washington – starting with the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

With leadership from the ACLU of Washington, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and OneAmerica, more than 100 local groups and national organizations have endorsed the call to end state violence against immigrants and their communities.

This is because:

The “border” is here at home.

Of up to 1,575 people caged at Tacoma’s immigration prison on any given day, about one third of them are brought straight from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of these people, many are Central American asylum seekers and up to 250 of them may be women. When you hear about the “border crisis,” the place you should think of is Tacoma.

On the other hand, many people vulnerable to detention and deportation have been living in our state for years, even decades. Every time and Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes to someone’s door or waits for them outside the courthouse when they go to pay a traffic fine, the violence of the border wall comes home.

Until we shut down the NWDC, it will keep expanding.

In 2000, the Seattle immigration center only detained up to 200 people per day. In 2004, ICE entered into a contract with a massive corporation to build, own, and operate a new detention center for up to 500 people. This corporation built the NWDC and expanded the facility to up to 1,000 people in 2006 and up to 1,575 people in 2009!

If we build prisons and detention centers, we will fill them. This year, GEO Group unveiled its plans to expand the detention center in violation of Tacoma’s municipal code. While GEO claims this is to “improve” the facility, we know that there are no “improvements” that can make detention acceptable.

Despite the NWDC’s excellent inspection record, 200 went on hunger strike on October 20 to protest maggots, screws and other contaminants that make the food served unsanitary and unsafe. (This is a conservative number. The inspections are always perfect because they are done by a private company that ICE pay for. Nakamoto has been found to overlook real problems during inspections

They have also called on all of us outside the NWDC to support the call to shut down the detention center.

(Este es un número conservativo ya que ICE es el que paga por estas inspecciones. Es conocido que Nakamoto pasa de alto los problemas reales durantes sus inspecciones).

We won’t wait for federal action.

La Resistencia has called for an end to state-sanctioned violence against immigrants for years. Now more than ever, we know that President Trump and ICE do not care about laws and actions that “make America great” – they care about lining their pockets through xenophobic and racist fearmongering until we finally kick them out.

Our communities cannot wait for the federal government to act – the crisis is here and now. The city of Tacoma passed a unanimous resolution in favor of the detention center in 2000. Likewise, the State of Washington greased the funding wheels of private corporations which make money off human misery using a fund meant to support small businesses to support the construction and expansion of the detention center.

Elected officials must take responsibility for their role in the ongoing crisis that is the NWDC. Until the facility shuts down, a broad alliance of organizations will continue pushing to make the state of Washington non-compliant with Trump’s xenophobic agenda.

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