Truth behind Northwest detention centers

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The Northwest Detention Center is a privately led detention center situated in the port of Tacoma. It is led by the GEO Group, a company based in Florida concerned with private detention and more. Opening in 2004 with a capacity of 1575 detainees, it has earned the title of being the largest American immigration prison, according to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The situation in this detention center, and many others, is inhumane. It is without a doubt that immigrants within this country are not treated with decent human respect and not given accessible resources to gain asylum and citizenship. 

In 2014, NWDC detainees participated in a 56 day hunger strike to raise the concerns of intolerable food, wage theft, and lack of medical care, according to Maru Mora Villalpando and Megan Ybarra from Crosscut. Additionally, the Washington state Attorney General’s Office sued the GEO Group from the investigations done on minimum wage. The workers are only paid a dollar a day, while some are not,  and made to participate in “contests” where they earn “prizes.” 

On the La Resistencia site, it shows the breaking of the system and how money is made from these camps. It shows the numbers and how the revenue for GEO was $71 million for FY18 in Tacoma. 

“Even though this system of human caging is all contracted through ICE, most of ICE’s detention beds — more than 70% in 2019 — are in privately owned or operated detention centers, including the NWDC,” according to La Resistencia. 

There are so many unimaginable hardships that immigrants must go through in order to seek shelter here, only to be detained and treated inhumanely in private detention facilities. We cannot allow for the future to consist of these private-led centers anymore. 

Now, Washington has introduced House Bill 2576, which is sponsored by Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self and in the Senate by Senator Rebecca Saldaña. Retrieved from the House Bill report, its description is that it, “prohibits persons, businesses, and state and local governments from operating private detention facilities or from utilizing contracts with private detention facilities.”

“Under the bill, Washington state’s one private detention facility, the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, would continue to detain people only for the duration of its contract, which expires in 2025. The bill could prevent other private facilities — whether criminal or civil — from opening,” said Lilly Fowler from Crosscut. 

As unjust these detention centers are, it’s beneficial that organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, La Resistencia, and The Latino Civil Alliance are working in support of keeping immigrants safe. 

“We should not be profiting off our most vulnerable communities. Locking people up should not be a money making venture,” said Representative Ortiz-Self from the Crosscut article. 

This bill and many other efforts to shut down the NW detention center are progressing and very impactful, especially in 2020. Change needs to happen now, and it’s in our hands to have a progressive and safe Washington State.

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