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NWDC: ICE violates Washington state governor’s stay-at-home emergency declaration

Maru Mora-Villalpando  |  Issue: May | June 2020
NWDC protesters

On March 31st La Resistencia organized a caravan rally to support the hunger strikers inside the NWDC and amplify their demands. The caravan-rally was timed to coincide with the departure of deportation buses from the facility. #FreeThemAll #ShutDownNWDC #AbolishICE #CaravanRally


Tacoma, WA – The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transported 51 persons last March 24 from the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) violating the spirit of the Washington state governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home emergency declaration that closed all non-essential businesses and limited public movement to essential critical infrastructure workers in order to curb the spread and transmission of the coronavirus.

ICE’s flagrant disregard for the medical welfare of all people in civil detention and the broader communities within which people are detained is well-documented. Indeed, in mid-March, two Department of Homeland Security (ICE’s parent agency) doctors warned Congress about the “imminent risk” of the coronavirus for all those in detention centers and recommended that ICE release nearly all 38,000 people in its facilities – a recommendation affirmed by 3,000 medical professionals who signed an open letter urging ICE to release detainees.


NWDC protest

The Derrumbando Fronteras Hunger Strike has grown from 30 people to over 300 people at NWDC. Photo of the participants in the caravan rally in March 29.


Meanwhile, earlier in March, ICE had dispersed over 80 detained people from this coronavirus hotspot to other states and possibly to other countries. Indeed, ICE deported people with flu-like symptoms to Guatemala without testing for COVID-19, and ICE deported three people to Honduras with symptoms.

“Only by releasing all those detained at the NWDC before a large outbreak occurs – and it will occur – can we practice the social distancing and stay-at-home orders of the governor necessary to slow the rate of infection and to safeguard the lives of people both outside and inside the NWDC,” stated activist Maru Mora-Villalpando.

“In fact, from numerous reports of COVID-19-like symptoms from those caged and at least one unit in isolation inside NWDC and who now especially fear for their lives, it is imperative that the governor instruct GEO Group to release all people detained, ” Mora-Villalpando continued.

It remains unclear if any of the 51 people transported on March 24 came from one of the units where detainees had reported persons with COVID-19-like symptoms. What is clear is that both ICE and GEO risk spreading the coronavirus in the region.

As Mora-Villalpando explained: “In all past instances of outbreaks, people detained reported those outbreaks to us weeks and sometimes months before GEO revealed them publicly. Today, we cannot wait for GEO or ICE to report these outbreaks. With the coronavirus, the stakes are too high not to listen to what people detained are saying.”

La Resistencia calls for the immediate suspension of all deportation flights into and out of our state and the transfer of people currently detained at NWDC. We call on Governor Inslee to regulate the private GEO Group, as he is doing with all other non-essential private businesses in the state and release all detained people immediately.

La Resistencia (formerly known as NWDC Resistance) is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. La Resistencia supports detainees in demanding an end to all detentions and deportations while improving treatment and other conditions.

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