NWIRP Expresses Its Opposition to Planned Expansion of DHS Detention Center

For Immediate Release
Monday, July 7, 2008

Contact: Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director, NWIRP, 206.957.8609

SEATTLE, WA- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) today expressed its opposition to the decision of the Department of Homeland Security to expand the capacity of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. According to local news reports, the private contractor which runs the facility, the GEO Corporation, will be expanding the capacity of the detention center by 50% so that it can hold up to 1,500 individual at a time.

“The widespread detention of individuals because of civil violations of immigration law is one of the clearest examples of how our current immigration system is failing,” said Jorge L. Barón, NWIRP’s Executive Director. “Although many people in our community do not realize this, a significant proportion of the individuals detained at the Tacoma detention center have resided in the United States for many years and have either no criminal record or a record composed of only traffic offenses. Detaining these individuals while their cases are processed before the immigration court results in the needless separation of family members and makes it harder for people to obtain legal representation.”

Around 90 percent of the individuals who are detained at the Tacoma detention center are unable to obtain an attorney to represent them in their deportation (or “removal”) cases. Northwest Immigrant Rights Project provides presentations to individuals detained at the Northwest Detention Center through its Legal Orientation Program (LOP). During these presentations, detainees have the opportunity to learn about immigration court procedures and avenues to pursue legal immigration status. Detainees also have the opportunity to meet with a legal advocate who can access the person’s options in their individual immigration case. NWIRP staff attorneys are also able to take on a limited number of cases for direct representation before the immigration court.