Detention and removal defense is an important aspect of each of our office's work, and the ten staff members who work out of our Tacoma office are specifically focused on serving people detained at the Northwest Detention Center. NWIRP serves over 3,200 community members who face detention or removal every year.
The Realities of Facing Removal
Immigrants have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and the right to due process under the law. According to the National Immigration Forum, approximately 400,000 people were held in over 250 detention facilities in 2014 at a cost of over $1.7 billion.
Detainees include asylum seekers fleeing persecution in their own country only to land in a detention facility when they honestly express their intention to seek asylum when they reach our borders. Detainees also include green card holders who have lived in the United States for almost their entire lives who stand to lose their green cards and be deported to a country they don’t remember, simply because they have committed a crime for which they have already served their time. Detainees include breadwinners separated from families that depend on them, pregnant mothers, the mentally ill, members of the LGBT community and even U.S. citizens who are wrongfully detained. 80 to 90 percent of detained immigrants are not represented by a lawyer, in part because detained immigrants can only work for $1 each day and do not have the right to a free lawyer, and in part because detention itself prevents access to legal help.
NWIRP Protects Rights
NWIRP provides legal help and representation to detained immigrants who are unable to afford a lawyer:
- NWIRP provides “Know Your Rights” presentations to detainees to explain the legal process and potential forms of relief.
- NWIRP meets with detainees one-on-one to assess their immigration cases and identify forms of relief.
- NWIRP conducts workshops to help detainees fill out applications for relief and prepare for court.
- NWIRP vigilantly identifies those United States citizens who are wrongfully detained and facilitate their release from detention.
- NWIRP advocates and directly represents members of the most vulnerable of the detained population, including the mentally ill, the elderly and the handicapped.
- NWIRP brings a ray of hope to a place where detained immigrants are often in the dark about what is happening to them, cannot communicate due to language barriers and cannot communicate with loved ones in the outside world.
I came to America to get away from the Myanmar government who was threatening me and my family because we were part of a pro-democracy movement.
Than is a professional who participated in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar in the fall of 2007. Soon after, he was detained and interrogated by government officials about his political activity. He was forced to sign a document saying that he would not continue anti-government political activity. He was threatened with arrest and imprisonment and told that his family would lose their livelihood if he did not comply. After weeks of being followed and watched by government officials continuously he fled to the United States when he learned that others detained around the time he had been were being re-detained. Once he arrived in the United States, he made contact with organizations that are politically active against the Myanmar government. He was detained by the Department of Homeland Security shortly after his arrival and was held at the Northwest Detention Center until he prevailed at his merits hearing about ten weeks later and released.