Press Releases

Today, 181 Members of Congress filed an Amicus Brief in support of the Obama Administration’s appeal of a Texas judge's ruling that temporarily blocks the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parents and Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Both of these programs are part of the President's executive actions on immigration.

“Last November, the President took legal and necessary executive action to reform our broken immigration system." said Congressman Adam Smith. “Today, I joined my colleagues in Congress in signing this brief so the President’s actions can bring millions of families and children who are part of our communities and live in constant fear of deportation out of the shadows."

The Amicus Brief expresses the opinions of Members of Congress that the deferred action programs comport with Congressional will and the President has the authority to exercise discretion when enforcing immigration laws. 

Full text of the amicus brief can be found here.

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement after a framework to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon was announced: 

For decades, Iran advanced towards a nuclear weapon. In the face of unprecedented sanctions, that stopped, negotiations began and we now have an opportunity to roll back Iran’s nuclear program. 

No one ever said it would be easy. Negotiators have worked tirelessly under intense pressure and scrutiny for more than a year. The framework announced today is a positive step in the right direction. We should be encouraged, but not satisfied. 

Far more work remains to be done as negotiators hash out the specifics outlined in the framework, but today the world took a big step towards preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As we move toward June, I encourage the international community to seize this historic opportunity and pressure the Iranian regime to accept a final deal that verifiably prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That is the goal we should all be focused on achieving. And that deal must not be based on trust - it must be based on a robust verification regime. 

Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon remains our top national security priority in the Middle East. Iran continues to be a bad actor throughout the region – fostering unrest in Yemen, Lebanon, meddling in Syria and threatening the very existence of Israel. Iran is a clear threat to our allies and interests even without a nuclear weapon. That does not change with this deal and Iran will remain under significant economic pressure for a variety of issues outside of its nuclear program. Cooperation on the nuclear program will not heal all ills for Iran.

This deal has the potential to cut off all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon in a verifiable way. Opponents should seek to guide the framework towards a positive outcome, not attempt to derail a final comprehensive deal. No final deal will be perfect, but the objective is to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon without going to war. In the months ahead, I will follow negotiations closely and encourage a peaceful and positive outcome. 

Washington, D.C. - Last week, Congressman Adam Smith wrote the House Appropriations Committee a letter expressing strong support for the President’s request of  $87.7 million in Economic Support Funds to promote stability and economic development in Somalia.  Somalia has made meaningful economic and security gains over the last few years and these funds would be targeted towards building government institutions and strengthening civic capacity.  This is a key, necessary step to securing the flow of remittances to Somalia in the long-term.

“The need to invest in Somalia’s development has been made clear by the recent situation affecting remittance flows from the U.S. to the country,” said Congressman Adam Smith.  “Although an immediate solution is needed, we should also simultaneously support the people of Somalia in their efforts to form legitimate, durable institutions.”

On February 6th, Merchants Bank closed the accounts of all Money Transfer Operators (MTOs) to which it provided banking services. This has left Somali Americans in the 9th District and across the country without any secure means to send money back to their families.  With U.S. remittances to Somalia making up a large part of the Somalian economy and being the only source of income for many families, this situation threatens the fragile progress made by Somalia.

“While I continue to work with the National Security Council and other federal agencies to find an immediate solution, it is also critical that we look for long-term, sustainable solutions.  This investment in Economic Support Funds will help Somalia build a stronger central bank and the robust regulatory institutions necessary to ensure that Somalia can participate in the international banking system in the future."

Congressman Smith’s letter was co-signed by Congressman Keith Ellison and 9 other members.  
To view the letter, click here.


Op-Ed: Jailing immigrants is inhumane, costly and unnecessary

Setting detention goals for immigrants is a waste of taxpayer dollars

March 31, 2015

THE Northwest Detention Center is a large, privately operated detention facility in the Tacoma Tideflats that has been in the news a lot this past year. Despite multiple hunger strikes, public protests and the introduction of federal legislation to address issues at the facility, immigration officials are set to sign another multimillion-dollar contract with the same private prison company that has run it for years.

Due in large part to a misguided federal policy called the “detention bed mandate,” large, for-profit prison corporations that have the resources to build and maintain detention centers are left in charge of operating these facilities at a high cost to taxpayers, detainees and families of those affected.

In the United States, GEO Group, the company that runs the detention center, and the Corrections Corporation of America are the only two corporations large enough to bid on a contract like the Tacoma facility. That leaves us with a detention policy that benefits them, but not society.

The detention bed mandate, which was passed by Congress in 2009, requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to fill 34,000 detention beds for immigrants at any given time. Rather than targeting enforcement toward individuals who pose risks to our community, this indiscriminate quota incentivizes the inhumane and arbitrary detention of thousands for whom we have no justifiable reason to detain.

Take Ramon Mendoza Pascual, for example. In September 2013, Ramon had a few beers at a bar in Auburn and walked to his car to go home. Realizing he shouldn’t risk driving, he called his wife, Veronica Noriega, for a ride home and waited in his car. When she arrived, he was gone. She was told later that Mendoza had been arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Despite the fact a judge had dropped the DUI charge, when Noriega went to court to pay her husband’s bail, she was told Mendoza could not be freed. ICE had placed a hold on his case and he was being transferred to the Tacoma detention facility.

Ramon was a carpenter, a volunteer for a local charity, a husband and a father of three young children. But on that day all that mattered to ICE was his immigration status. He is neither a flight risk nor a danger, but he’s now been detained at the facility for 18 months and can only see his family through a window.

Not only is this overuse of detention inhumane, it’s also expensive. Since the passage of the detention bed mandate, the use of detention has skyrocketed to around 450,000 people detained every year. At an estimated cost of $164 per day for each detainee, our government spends approximately $5.5 million a day and more than $2 billion a year on the detention of immigrants.

There are many less wasteful alternatives to detention that exist and offer a more fair, cost-effective and humane approach while still ensuring that more than 90 percent of individuals appear at immigration proceedings.

Community-based support programs are one such alternative that have proved successful. These are programs where nonprofits provide immigrants with legal services, case management, housing and more while they await immigration proceedings in their own homes, rather than in a detention center. A Baltimore-based immigration advocacy group, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, has piloted community-based programs in the past and has built coalitions with local service partners in Seattle and elsewhere that provide important support and services at fractions of the cost of detention.

Other alternatives include telephonic reporting and release on bond, enabling individuals to remain in their communities and with their families at costs averaging $5.16 per day, according to ICE. The stark contrast between $5.16 and the $164 per day it costs to detain an individual begs the question of why Congress requires ICE to detain 34,000 individuals each day.

There is no good answer. Despite being more humane, just and inexpensive, only 23,000 immigrants receive alternative surveillance compared to the minimum of 34,000 who are held in detention centers.

President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 included a large expansion of so-called “alternatives to detention,” or ATD. The bad news is the increased funding provides almost exclusively for ankle-bracelet monitoring, which only expands business opportunities for for-profit prison companies, like GEO. Additionally, this expanded funding does not repeal or reduce the 34,000 detention beds that are required to be filled. Any expansion of ATDs is only helpful and cost-effective if it’s coupled with less detention.

Individuals should be detained only in cases where the government has proved that no other method is feasible. In order to ensure this, Congress must repeal mandatory detention laws and defund appropriations quotas that require 34,000 daily beds and instead invest money into community-based alternatives.

Until Congress acts, ICE will continue to sign contracts with GEO and heartbreaking stories like that of Ramon Mendoza Pascual and his family will continue to be our legacy.

This Op-Ed ran in the Seattle Times.  U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D- Bellevue, represents the 9th Congressional District.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement after the House of Representatives voted on Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposals:
“With increasing income inequality, decreasing wages, and a shrinking middle class, we need a budget that prioritizes those that aren’t sharing in the recent economic recovery.  The Democratic budget does just that by expanding tax credits for working families, increasing access to quality education, improving our nation’s aging infrastructure, and ending sequestration. 
“Unfortunately, the Republican budget stands in stark contrast by instead giving large tax breaks to the wealthy while failing to address the challenges faced by many hard-working Americans.  Their budget would slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) resulting in millions of children and families losing essential support to help put food on the table.  It would turn Medicare into a voucher system, gut Medicaid and make it more difficult to protect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).  It makes devastating cuts to education, research, and energy which will stifle innovation and the economy.  
“These budgets offer two very different visions for the future of our country.  It is critical that we come together to support policy priorities in the Democratic budget that invest in our workers, expand economic and education opportunities, and provide funding to rebuild our infrastructure.”