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Shutting down a detention center, a cage for human beings, in the new decade

Marú Mora Villalpando  |  Issue: March 2020
Marú Mora Villalpando

Maru at a rally to shut down the the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma.


The fight to end detentions and deportations is not new. For many years, many have taken on the work of not only demanding an end to this racist and xenophobic practice. Many are fighting to create a change in culture that stops the acceptance and inevitability of detaining immigrants while waiting for their deportation proceedings.

In Washington state some of us began that fight when the very first detention center opened its door in the city of Tacoma back in 2004. We knew it was a hard fight because we were fighting against one of the most well-funded federal enforcement agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and one that also seems to enjoy free reign with no accountability whatsoever. After more than 15 years of operation, thousands detained and millions deported, we have also evolved as a movement.

We knew from the very beginning that this fight would require of all of us, immigrants alone can’t win. Since 2014, La Resistencia has worked determinedly alongside people detained, supporting their hunger strikes, exposing the human rights violations, and growing a sense of urgency to put an end to this detention and deportation machine.

In 2019 we began an intentional process of getting more support and consensus that we need to shut down the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma and to stop the proliferation of this system in our state and beyond.

We now have the #ShutdownNWDC Coalition with over two hundred organizations signing on to this campaign. We aim to close the facility by working on different parallel fronts:

  • The passage of HB2576/SB6442 Ban Private Prisons bill in our state legislature–following the path Illinois and California already paved by banning corporations from running detention centers in those states. So NWDC can’t renew their contract with ICE when it expires in 2025.
  • Demanding the city of Tacoma pass a resolution against the existence of the NWDC. Back in 2002, the City Council passed a resolution in favor of building the prison, and declaring NWDC a chronic public nuisance. So we can use that as another brick in the path to closing the facility.
  • Continue supporting and following the leadership of those detained by hosting actions on site, and exposing the abuses Geo and ICE inflict on people detained.
  • Build a coordinated national strategy that follows people detained that may be transferred to other places and preparing to have people released on bond or parole while the closing of the facility occurs.
  • Continue engaging people to participate, even from afar, in changing the culture of acceptance and resignation to one that believes we don’t need immigrant detention of any kind, with the understanding that change can only happen when we work for it.

Our campaign will end when NWDC is closed, when the place is empty, when the Puyallup Tribe, rightful owners of the land, decide what to do with the prison. But our work won’t end there, we will continue until every person imprisoned is back with their families, when profit is not a motive to incarcerate and when criminalization against our communities of color end. We will fight until we achieve liberation!

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