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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 40
Jayapal and Smith team up to reform immigration prisons
Section One
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Jayapal and Smith team up to reform immigration prisons

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle's two members of Congress, Pramila Jayapal (D-7) and Adam Smith (D-9), have teamed up to sponsor a bill aimed at reforming the way the US handles immigrant detainees. Their 1st District colleague Suzan DelBene is a co-sponsor on the bill.

The legislation would prohibit the use of for-profit private detention centers like the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, run by the GEO Group. GEO runs private detention centers in a number of countries, but its contracts with the US government account for 45% of its annual $1.6 billion of revenue.

The proposed legislation would also abolish mandatory detention, 'a policy that often results in arbitrary and indefinite detention,' Jayapal and Smith say in an October 3 statement. To correct the persistent failures of due process, the legislation requires the government to show probable cause to detain people, and it implements a special rule for primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and people with serious medical and mental health issues.

In addition, the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards in line with those adopted by the American Bar Association.

'The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. Large, private corporations operating detention centers are profiting off the suffering of men, women, and children. We need an overhaul,' said Rep. Jayapal.

'It's clear that the Trump administration is dismantling the few protections in place for detained immigrants even as he ramps up enforcement against parents and vulnerable populations. This bill addresses the most egregious problems with our immigration detention system. It's Congress's responsibility to step up and pass this bill.'

'We must fix the injustices in our broken immigration detention system,' Smith added. 'As the Trump administration continues to push a misguided and dangerous immigration agenda, we need to ensure fair treatment and due process for immigrants and refugees faced with detention. This legislation will address some of the worst failings of our immigration policy, and restore integrity and humanity to immigration proceedings.'

In addition to Jayapal, Smith, and DelBene, 39 other Democrats have signed on to the measure, including House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers of Michigan.

A number of human rights organizations have also endorsed the bill, including the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and OneAmerica, the immigrant rights group Jayapal founded soon after 9/11.

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