Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement opposing Trade Promotion Authority:

“Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), as they are currently being discussed, do not do enough to protect workers and the environment at home and abroad. 

“The biggest problem facing our economy is a vanishing middle class. Corporations are incentivized to value customers, shareholders, and executives over their workers resulting in less take home pay and benefits.  This is evidenced by the bottom 90 percent of Americans owning just 23 percent of total U.S. wealth.  TPA and TPP are far from the only or even largest contributors, but they provide the wrong incentives allowing corporations to grow and benefit from undervaluing workers both here and abroad.

“This trade framework is skewed to benefit corporations; an example of this is the investor-state dispute settlement. This mechanism gives corporations the private right to sue countries directly for what they may deem to be discriminatory, unfair, or arbitrary treatment by the host government. Meanwhile, workers do not have the same right to action should a country violate its worker or environmental obligations under the agreement.  For example, if a corporation perceives that it is negatively impacted by a country’s enactment of a safety or environmental protection law it has the right to sue that country. However, violations brought by labor or environmental groups must go through a long and cumbersome process through the U.S. Government that can take several years.

“I believe in the benefits of trade and I have supported trade promotion authority and many trade deals in the past.  But I voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement precisely because it lacked protections for labor and the environment.  In 2007, the May 10th Agreement was reached and it provided enforceable protections for workers and the environment.  However, the promises of this agreement have not yet been fully realized and much more work is left to be done.  Although on paper enforcement standards have improved, our government has not demonstrated to American and international workers its commitment to fully doing the job.

“I often hear an argument in support of TPA and TPP that if we don’t set the rules in Asia and the Pacific, China will do so. Although clearly better than China’s, our record is not stellar either. The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured 2,000 more due to a failure to ensure safe working conditions for workers. There were several American companies whose products were made at that factory by subcontractors with terrible labor and safety practices. Corporations should not skirt their responsibilities by using willful ignorance or global supply chains as an excuse to absolve them of their responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers.

“Currency manipulation is another problem that remains unaddressed.  Until we find an effective way to ensure that other countries cannot devalue their currency to boost their exports, U.S. gains from trade will be limited. Finding a solution to currency manipulation matters to American workers and businesses. This agreement does not address this issue in a meaningful way.

“These concerns aside, I would be more inclined to support a trade deal if I believed that American and global corporate culture was committed to paying workers fairly and ensuring their safety in the workplace.  However, skyrocketing executive pay and huge stock buybacks at the expense of worker compensation convince me that there is an insufficient commitment to preserving the middle class. Too many businesses value executives, shareholders, and customers over workers, who today are not being adequately compensated for the work they do.

“I grew up in the SeaTac area where my father worked as a ramp serviceman for United Airlines and my mother stayed at home to raise the family. As a blue collar worker in the 1980s, my father was a member of the union and was paid $16 an hour with benefits. His job allowed him to provide for my family and to support my educational and professional goals.  Unfortunately, his job today would pay only $9.73, making it impossible for a family to enjoy the financial security and upward mobility mine did. 

“Trade agreements should create sound incentives and reinforce business cultures that value workers, as they have the ability to help spread these practices worldwide. We must do more to support the companies in the 9th District and around the country that are doing so already. Unfortunately, Wall Street and trade deals too often reward these companies’ competitors that improve their bottom line by shortchanging their employees--many of whom are not being adequately compensated for their work.

“In voting against TPA, it is my hope the Administration will take a step back and better engage on strengthening compliance with worker and environmental protections through trade agreements.  When I supported trade agreements in the past, I believed the commitment to strong enforcement would result in tangible improvements.  I want to be able to support future trade agreements, but until our record improves, these deals will fail to deliver on their promise of shared economic prosperity for American businesses and workers.”

Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement opposing the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations bill:  

“Investments in our nation’s transportation network and infrastructure provide for thousands of jobs, the safety of our citizens, and the efficient movement of goods, all of which is critical for our economic growth.  Despite this, Congress has been unable to implement forward-thinking policies and spending on transportation programs.  The FY2016 T-HUD Appropriations bill is simply another failed attempt to responsibly invest in our infrastructure.  It ignores the fact that our roads, bridges and railways are crumbling, and instead locks in the indiscriminate cuts of sequestration, leading to woefully underfunded infrastructure programs like TIGER Grants and Amtrak.  Congress should not stand for this.

“Additionally, the FY2016 T-HUD Appropriations bill falls short in funding for housing and urban development.  The bill slashes funding for new Section 8 Rental Assistance vouchers and also does nothing to restore the 67,000 vouchers that were lost due to harmful sequestration cuts.  As most of the country continues to struggle from the Great Recession, we need to ensure families have the support necessary to work their way back into the economy.  This bill fails to provide that critical support.  

“Until Congress can come together and eliminate the harmful and mindless cuts of sequestration, funding for critical programs like transportation and housing will continue to be slashed.  I deeply understand the importance of improving infrastructure in the US and investing in housing and urban development programs, and despite the challenges, I will continue to do all I can to advocate for responsible investments in these priorities.”

Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement recognizing the life of Bob Dickerson:

“I was deeply saddened to learn that Bob Dickerson passed away.  Bob was eternally optimistic and inspired everyone that he met, including me. He recognized the good in humanity; and the generosity, selflessness, and passion that he exhibited every day uplifted everyone around him.  He never missed the chance to put in a good word about others and recognize the work of his colleagues and friends.  He spent his life fighting tirelessly for the poor and vulnerable at home and around the world.  Bob will be tremendously missed, but the impact he had on the people who knew him will continue to live on.  My thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s family and friends at this difficult time.” 

Congressman Smith released the following statement in response to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) announced action on family detention centers:

“ICE’s announced action to improve oversight and conditions at family detention centers misses the point.  It is wrong and irresponsible for our government to continue detaining children and their mothers.  We must not ignore that jailing children can have devastating impacts on a child’s development and cause serious psychological harm to these families.    We have less expensive and more humane alternatives to detention to monitor families while still adequately managing their cases.  Our government must focus on utilizing these alternatives, and I will continue to advocate for policies that do so.  We need to get out of the business of detaining children and their mothers.”

Washington, D.C.-  Today, Congressman Adam Smith reintroduced the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, legislation that would create enforceable standards and improve conditions at immigration detention centers while encouraging alternatives to detention and the repeal of the detention bed mandate.  The Northwest Detention Center, a detention facility in Congressman Smith’s district, experienced a large hunger strike among its detainees in March 2014 to protest conditions and treatment within the facility.  Over a year later, detainees at the facility report that they continue to experience unfair, unjust, and inhumane treatment.

“Our immigration detention system is expensive, inhumane, and badly broken,” said Congressman Adam Smith.  “Our government spends millions of dollars detaining fathers, mothers, and children who have committed no crime in unacceptable conditions as they await immigration proceedings.  This legislation would improve conditions by creating enforceable standards that are established and negotiated by a group of community stakeholders.”

The stakeholders would not only include the Department of Homeland Security, but also representatives of State and local governments, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, nongovernmental organizations (NGO) with expertise working on behalf of aliens in detention facilities, NGOs with expertise advocating for asylum seeker, and more.  The standards would address issues around solitary confinement, investigating grievances, treatment of detainees, access to legal representation, and ensuring quality food.  

“We applaud Representative Adam Smith for his leadership,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica.  “Federal agencies continue to provide inadequate attention to the fundamental right to fair and humane treatment including limits on the use of solitary confinement, increased access to telephones, attorneys and translation services, and protection of detainees against retaliation for filing a complaint or grievance.  Many immigrants have waited months (and sometimes years) in detention centers while awaiting legal proceedings.” 

In addition to improving standards and conditions, the legislation also takes steps to expand alternatives to detention.  Alternatives offer a more fair, cost-effective and humane approach while still ensuring that more than 90 percent of individuals appear at immigration proceedings.  

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) released a statement saying, “This Act would both expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention and create increased protections for migrants in detention.  These alternatives result in high rates of compliance and appearance, improved integration outcomes, and improved health and welfare- all at a reduced cost to the government.  Overall, the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act offers a strong model for how the United States can uphold its humanitarian obligations while ensuring compliance with immigration law.”

This legislation also recognizes that an expansion in alternatives must come with the repeal of the detention bed quota.  

The Detention Watch Network expressed support saying  they “welcome Representative Smith's leadership in addressing many of the injustices endemic to the US immigration detention system. From addressing the egregious immigration detention bed quota, to curbing some of the worst aspects of misguided mandatory detention laws, to improving access to legal representation for people who are detained, this bill is a clear step in the right direction and a welcome departure from the current system which treats immigrant lives as numbers to meet a quota and dollars to make a profit.”

Maru Villalpando of Latino Advocacy added that "This bill is a model of true collaboration and partnership with those impacted by the detention and deportation machine that profits off their misery, and off the separation of families.  While we continue our efforts on ending deportations and detentions, we will continue supporting legislative efforts such as this.”

This legislation has been cosponsored by Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2), Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Rep. Theodore Deuch (FL-1), Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11), Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), and Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7).  It’s also received support from many civil society organizations such as OneAmerica, LIRS, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Detention Watch Network, and Latino Advocacy.

For a section by section on the bill, click here.