As Many As 120 Women Transferred To Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Separated From Children While Applying For Asylum
Seattle, WA – Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) today condemned the separation of children from mothers who have been transferred to Washington State and are now being held at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
Over this past week the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred as many as 120 asylum seekers from Texas to the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in SeaTac, Washington. Initial reports demonstrate the group consists of many women who originally arrived with their children seeking asylum, but were then separated from their children by Border Patrol officials and prosecuted for unlawful entry, a federal misdemeanor. Despite completing their sentences, the mothers remain in federal detention while applying for asylum and separated from their children who are being held at separate government facilities.
NWIRP staff first learned of this development after meeting with two women yesterday, June 6th. The two women arrived at the United States’ southern border with their young daughters in mid-May seeking asylum. Both were separated from their children shortly after they were apprehended by Border Patrol. The two women were charged with the misdemeanor crime of unlawful entry and sentenced to time served. But instead of being returned to their children, who are now held at different government facilities, the two women were transferred to Washington State while they proceed forward with the asylum process. The two women reported that approximately 60 other women in similar circumstances are currently being held in the same section of the Federal Detention Center. Moreover, there are now reports of an additional group of 60 asylum seekers being held in a separate section of the FDC at SeaTac. NWIRP staff is actively working to reach as many of them as possible to provide legal assistance.
“The tragedy that is the Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents is now taking place in our state,” said Jorge L. Baron, executive director of NWIRP. “We now have women detained in our community who have had their children forcibly taken from them simply because they sought to protect them. We call on the Administration to reunite these parents with their children and to stop this inhumane policy.”
The women contacted by NWIRP have expressed fear of returning to their home countries. Shortly after they were detained by Border Patrol in mid-May, the women were separated from their daughters. The women were then held in detention centers in Texas until they were transferred to SeaTac earlier this week. They were targeted for forced separation from their children due to the Trump Administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without permission, even if they do so to seek asylum. The women were sentenced to time-served, however, and no longer have criminal charges pending against them. Despite this, they are being held at a detention center that is generally used only for those serving criminal sentences or awaiting trial on federal charges. The SeaTac FDC has no legal rights presentations, unlike the Northwest Detention Center.
“There is simply no moral or legal justification for separating children from their parents in this draconian effort seeking to deter other immigrants,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for NWIRP. “This is not only unlawful, but also contrary to basic human decency.”