Updates and Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Asylum Seekers Detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac

The Federal Detention Center in SeaTac

The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border is now impacting Washington State

The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border has begun impacting Washington State. Over 200 asylum seekers, 56 of them mothers and fathers who have been separated from their children after crossing the southern border, are now being held at the Federal Detention Center (FDC), a federal prison in SeaTac, Washington. NWIRP staff first learned of this development after meeting with two women who 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. They are currently being held in the FDC, (not the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma where asylum seekers are usually detained.

What is the Trump Administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy?

In May, the administration dramatically increased the systematic removal of children, including infants and toddlers, from parents arriving at the border, many of whom are asking for asylum. The Administration has stated that it is attempting to deter these families from seeking protection in the United States. The New York Times reported at least 700 known cases of a child separated from an adult at the border between October 2017 and April 2018; more than 100 of these children were under the age of four. However, the family separation policy has dramatically increased since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a so-called “zero tolerance” policy against asylum seekers on May 7. In recent testimony before Congress, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 658 children were taken from their parents in just 13 days in May.

How many of these asylum seekers are being held in Washington State?

A total of 206 asylum seekers were initially transferred to the Federal Detention Center, 174 women and 32 men. 56 of these asylum seekers were parents separated from their children. On July 16th, nearly all of the asylum seekers who were separated from their children were moved to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. By July 26th, most parents still separated from their children were sent to Texas.

How is NWIRP staff providing assistance to these asylum seekers?

NWIRP staff and volunteers have been able to perform intake interviews and screenings with 200 asylum seekers. NWIRP started conducting regular Legal Orientation Programs for asylum seekers (the same program we hold regularly at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma). We have also been assisting asylum seekers in ‘credible fear interviews’ with immigration officials and have been working with parents to help them get to be in contact with their children. As of July 26th, we have helped reunite 24 parents with their children in Washington State and have been tracking the reunification of parents and children who have been sent back to Texas.

On June 25th, NWIRP helped three mothers file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of themselves and dozens of other parents who remain separated from their children. Our lawsuit demanded that these parents be reunited with their kids and challenges the government’s failure to move forward with their asylum claims. You can learn more about this litigation here.

On July 6th, the first of these asylum seekers, Yolany Padilla, was released from the NWDC on bond. Since that date, 24 parents have been released on bond so far. On July 14th, the first two parents released on bond were reunited with their children. You can read about Yolany and her son Jelsin’s reunion here. We are raising money to help pay for asylum seekers bonds here.

How can I help?

We are grateful that so many community members are interested in supporting these asylum seekers. There are many ways you can get involved that we have outlined on this page.


Make a donation to NWIRP
Community members interested in supporting our efforts can do so by donating at this link. Your funding allows us to continue our work assisting community members affected by this inhumane policy.


There may be additional needs that develop in this fast changing situation. Please come back to this page as we will update this information as it changes.