By John Larson
Mayor Victoria Woodards and Tacoma City Council are working on a draft of a letter to Congress expressing concerns about Northwest Detention Center. The matter was discussed during the March 5 study session.
The mayor distributed copies of her letter, which is still in draft form. The opening paragraph reads as follows: “Among my colleagues and I, we continue to hear concerns daily about the Northwest Detention Center. Through reports from citizens and community leaders, we are knowledgeable of the breaches of health, safety, civil rights and human dignity in the detention center. The immigration incarceration system endangers 38,153 men, women and children every single day – 1,575 adults at this center in our city. As long as this facility is in our city, we will seek every means possible to ensure the rights, dignity, health and safety of the detainees are protected. We can do better for these 1,575 individuals who have been brought into our community. We call on you to be partner with us in making that commitment.”
Councilmember Lillian Hunter described a tour of the facility she took last fall with Councilmember Conor McCarthy. They met with officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and GEO Group, the company that operates the detention center for the federal agency. Hunter said efforts toward reform of immigration policies were hampered by the recent government shutdown. Hunter mentioned that she and other councilmembers had been working on their own letter on the subject.
McCarthy said the council cannot change federal policy, but it can attempt to influence those who do. He wants to ensure that detainees have adequate food and are treated humanely.
Councilmember Katherine Ushka said the city’s Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs should offer feedback on the letter. Councilmember Chris Beale said he also wants the Commission to participate in the process. “The letter would mean a tremendous amount to them.”