Updates and Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Asylum Seekers Detained at 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, many 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 recent weeks, the administration has 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?
The information we have is that a total of 206 asylum seekers were initially transferred to the Federal Detention Center, 174 women and 32 men. There are an additional 1,800 asylum seekers who have been placed in federal correctional facilities throughout the United States (most of whom are in California, Oregon, Texas, and Washington State). This is of course on top of tens of thousands of people detained at immigration detention centers around the country each day. As of July 16th, nearly all of the asylum seekers who have been separated from their children have been moved to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
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. We have started conducting regular Legal Orientation Programs for asylum seekers (the same program we hold regularly at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma). We plan on assisting asylum seekers in ‘credible fear interviews’ with immigration officials and are working with parents to help them get to be in contact with their children. We are advocating for these asylum seekers to be released at the earliest possible opportunity.
On June 25th, we 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 demands that these parents be reunited with their kids and challenges the government’s failure to move forward with their asylum claims. Our clients are part of the group of 206 asylum-seekers who were transferred to Washington State while waiting for immigration officials to begin processing their claims. The three women came to this country with their children seeking safety, but instead immigration officials took their children from them, without explanation. They have not seen their children in over a month. Some have not even been able to talk to their kids over the phone. 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, 15 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 these asylum seekers bonds here.
What happens to the separated children?
Families that are separated are often unable to find each other, speak, or be reunited. Once separated, parents and children receive little information on how to locate and speak to one another and visits are often impossible. Immigration officials are often unwilling to release parents for the duration of their case, meaning that children will stay in ORR custody or live with another relative for months. In some cases, a parent or child may be deported without the other, leaving children stranded. This is despite the fact that the family often has the same asylum claim. Please see the two-page fact sheet by the Women’s Refugee Commission and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) on family separation at the border and the recent stories about “missing children.”
On July 14th, the first two parents released on bond in Washington State 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 these 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.