Press Releases

Booker, Senators Introduce Bill Targeting Family Detention, Inhumane Conditions of Immigration Detention Centers, Flawed Detention Processing System

Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would make a number of much-needed reforms to immigration detention system

June 21, 2018

e process. Family separation cannot be replaced by family incarceration,” Senator Blumenthal said. “Indefinitely imprisoning children, families, and pregnant women is inhumane and intolerable in a democratic society. History will judge us harshly if we permit these inhumane and immoral policies to be carried out without our opposition.”

“It is unacceptable that not only has the Trump administration spent weeks ripping children away from their parents, but they have also forced children and families into inhumane and shameful detention camps,” Senator Duckworth said. “Our bill will hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensure immigrant and refugee families are treated humanely and no longer torn apart or indefinitely detained.”

“The United States of America is not and must never be about locking up little children in cages on the southern border,” Senator Sanders said. “This bill will provide important safeguards, preventing the Trump administration’s inhumane detention policies. Instead of throwing entire families in jail, many of whom are fleeing unspeakable violence in their own countries and seeking protection under our asylum laws, we should treat people in a way that upholds our moral values and the ideals of our laws.”

“I am disturbed that the Department of Homeland Security continues to violate the rights of families at the Southern border with almost no accountability or oversight. Congress must rein them in now,” Senator Gillibrand said. “I am proud to support this important legislation to help fix our broken immigration system and hold DHS accountable. Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights. We must ensure that our immigration and border patrol agencies are never acting above the law, and we must also ensure that every family is treated with dignity by our government.”

“The Trump treatment of asylum seekers hoping for safe haven in America has been exposed as cruel and heartless. As the proud son of parents who found refuge in the United States from the Nazis, I know firsthand how immigrants and refugees strengthen our country,” Senator Wyden said. “This legislation would restore American values of decency and fair treatment to this administration’s immoral immigration policy so refugees and immigrants would once again find America to be a beacon of hope.”

“Our nation’s immigration system has been broken for far too long, and it’s breaking further under the injustices of the Trump administration,” Representative Jayapal said. “We’re saying ‘no more’ to rampant deportation forces, to cruelty and death in detention, and to privately-run detention centers that jail immigrants in order to turn a profit. With our bicameral efforts in the House and Senate, we can bring the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act into law and restore justice to this system. It is time to make real comprehensive, humane reforms to our detention system, and this bill is the right place to start.”

“The problem that we face today is twofold: our immigration system is broken, and the way Donald Trump is choosing to enforce existing immigration laws is dead wrong,” Representative Smith said. “On multiple occasions, the President has created immigration crises that unjustly target immigrant children. I introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to address the systemic problems in our immigration detention system. In light of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” and the June 20, 2018 Executive Order on family detention, I am honored to have Senator Cory Booker introduce a Senate companion bill. Our legislation would put an end to the administration’s abuses of the immigration detention system and allow individuals and families to live outside of detention while they await their immigration proceedings. There is absolutely no reason for asylum seeking families to languish in detention facilities while they await the outcome of their cases. We need to pass the Dignity for Detained Immigrants into law to reform our immigration system and keep families together.“

Specifically, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:

  •          Prevent the detention of a primary caregiver, or vulnerable populations (i.e. minors, pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of torture, etc.) unless the government can show it is unreasonable or not practicable to place them in community-based supervision.
  •          Establish binding civil detention standards that are at least as protective as the Civil Immigration Detention Standards adopted by the American Bar Association in 2012 (the detention standards currently in use are not binding and provide minimal protections modeled on correctional rather than civil detention systems).
  •          Require the DHS Office of the Inspector General to conduct unannounced inspections of all detention facilities at least once per year and to make such reports publicly available (the current system of inspections and oversight is rife with loopholes and woefully inadequate to document and remedy egregious failures. For example, facilities are given advance warning of inspections and most facilities are inspected using outdated standards).
    •    Negative findings would result in financial penalties for contractors and remedial measures for DHS.
  •          Require DHS to investigate any deaths in custody and make the resulting report publicly available (currently, DHS is not required by law release findings publically).
  •          Require DHS to terminate all contracts with private prisons and local jails for the purpose of detention over the course of a three-year phase-out period.
  •          Require DHS to obtain judicial warrants of arrest or provide detainees a probable cause hearing before an immigration judge within 48 hours of detention.
  •          Strike the $1,500 minimum bond amount currently in the statute and require immigration judges to consider the immigrant’s ability to pay when setting bond.
  •          Require DHS to render a custody determination within 48 hours of taking an immigrant into custody and grants the immigrant the right to appeal such determination before an immigration judge within 72 hours.

Earlier this month, Booker joined Senator Feinstein and 30 other Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to halt the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant families at the border. Yesterday, he took to the Senate floor to blast the Trump policy.

 

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith introduced the Aviation Impacted Communities Act. As airline travel has increased, communities near airports across the country have been experiencing an increased and disproportionate share of noise and other environmental impacts stemming from commercial aviation. This has been the case even as many other areas have experienced reduced overall noise burdens. The concerns of residents of these increasingly impacted areas are not being adequately addressed.

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act seeks to help cities, localities, and neighborhoods to better and more productively engage with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  This legislation would require that the FAA communicate directly with residents and locally nominated leaders on issues of aviation noise and environmental impacts.  Through the creation of community boards, affected areas will more effectively work toward achieving relief from the impacts of civil and commercial aviation.

“The burden of airplane noise and environmental impacts should not fall disproportionately on any single group, neighborhood, or community. The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will help to bring some relief by streamlining the FAA’s engagement processes, allowing residents to bring their concerns directly to the FAA and airport operators, comprehensively assess the effects of aviation in a given area, and seek mitigation for those impacts,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Community engagement by the FAA on the negative impacts of aviation is long overdue and this legislation will provide a pathway to solutions and much needed relief for my constituents and communities across the country.”

"Rep. Smith's aviation impacted communities will help our beloved Seattle Beacon Hill neighborhood and other affected neighborhoods.  We are under the flight path.  Airplanes fly over us every 1-3 minutes. 70% of inbound flights go over our heads.  The noise is obnoxious, bad for our health and is disruptive.  We are a poor vulnerable neighborhood and this bill will help relieve this unjust burden,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director, El Centro De La Raza, located in Seattle, Washington. 

The Aviation-Impacted Communities Act comes at a critical time and crossroads for our national aviation system. The Act provides an essential new voice and role for communities that have supported, and have been disparately impacted by, aviation industry growth. By seating impacted communities at the same table with government and industry, the Act provides a meaningful tool-kit for better, balanced, collaborative decision-making that can include noise and emission studies, long-term regional plans for reducing impacts, and expanded eligibility for mitigation.  Quiet Skies Puget Sound supports and endorses the Aviation-Impacted Communities Act! We greatly value the work, advocacy, and leadership of Congressman Adam Smith on this legislation that so directly targets the preservation of our environment, human health, and quality of life,said Sheila Brush, Founder of Quiet Skies Puget Sound.

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act will:

  • Establish a new “aviation impacted communities” designation for areas suffering from excessive noise or environmental impacts.
  • Define a community eligible for that designation as any residential neighborhood, locality, municipality, town, or city located 3000 feet below, and one mile on either side of any commercial jet route.
  • Require that the FAA alert these communities of their eligibility for the designation of aviation-affected community.
  • Establish a process for communities to bring together airport operators, designated community leaders, and the FAA to discuss solutions in Community Board meetings.
  • Require that appropriate FAA representatives attend community board meetings and respond to community questions and concerns about issues involving aviation or the FAA.
  • Allow communities to petition the FAA for comprehensive impact studies.
  • Require that the FAA develop action plans to respond to communities concerns and the recommendations for mitigation provided in the impact studies.
  • Allow communities to ask for additional noise measurement instrumentation on the ground.
  • Expand the availability of mitigation funding for aviation impacted communities outside of the current 65 day-night average sound level (DNL) contours.
  • Allow sound insulation for communities in the 55 DNL contour

The Aviation Impacted Communities Act is cosponsored by Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Stephen Lynch (MA-08). The Act has been endorsed by both Quiet Skies Puget Sound and the Beacon Hill Community Group.

Rep Smith has worked directly with impacted communities and taken extensive action to mitigate noise and environmental impacts in the 115th Congress. You can read more about his work HERE.

A section by section of the bill can be found HERE.

Washington, D.C. – In light of reports that military bases are being considered to house migrant children, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed sent the following letter to Defense Secretary Mattis requesting assurances that Members of Congress will be able to conduct necessary oversight over any Department of Defense sites used to house migrant children.

Ranking Member Smith released the following statement on the letter, “I will continue to do everything I can to stop this administration’s inhumane policy toward children and their families. It’s unconscionable that we are even in this position in the first place and we must hold the federal government accountable for the care of children within their custody.”     

“President Trump’s new Executive Order doesn’t solve anything. Congress must exercise meaningful oversight and the Pentagon and the administration must be transparent about the true costs of housing these individuals on military bases,” said Senator Reed.

June 20, 2018 

The Honorable James N. Mattis

Secretary

U.S. Department of Defense

1100 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We understand that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering using Department of Defense (DOD) sites to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children. We write to request assurances that Members of Congress will have access to any DOD lands and facilities, including those on military bases, being used to house unaccompanied migrant children to facilitate appropriate and necessary Congressional oversight. 

Pursuant to requests from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS, it is our understanding that DOD provides information about potential facility and land options for HHS to consider for housing unaccompanied migrant children. While we recognize that these children are in the custody of HHS, we expect DOD to work with HHS to ensure that Members of Congress will be able to exercise Congressional oversight over any housing of unaccompanied migrant children on DOD property. Given the expected continued increase in the number of children in the custody of ORR, and the importance of ensuring appropriate care and safety of these children, it is essential that Members of Congress have access to these facilities even in circumstances where short-notice is provided.    

The Administration’s “zero tolerance policy” is simply cruel and inhumane. It is unconscionable that children are being separated from their parents at the border, many of whom are legally seeking asylum or humanitarian aid from violence they face in their home country. This abhorrent policy does nothing to improve our national security or address the factors that led these families to flee their home country. It is detrimental to our standing in the world and directly counter to the values our country was founded on. We will continue to fight against the separation of children from their families.

Congress must be able to conduct direct oversight to ensure these children are receiving the care they need and deserve while they are in the custody of the federal government. Given the Administration’s continued implementation of this objectionable policy, we request your confirmation that Members of Congress will have access to DOD sites selected by HHS for temporary housing of migrant children.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Adam Smith                                                                            Jack Reed

Ranking Member                                                                    Ranking Member

House Armed Services Committee                                         Senate Armed Services Committee

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Washington D.C.Yesterday, Congressman Adam Smith sent the following letter to Attorney General Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Nielson, and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar citing concerns with recent practices of detaining applicants for asylum at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Washington. Today, Smith joined with Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and Reps Jayapal, DelBene, and Heck to bring attention to the disturbing rise in family separations. 

Following the news of the family separations, ahead of the Press Conference, Smith said, “I am deeply disturbed by reports that a number of women who are seeking asylum are being detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac after being separated from their children. Under the law, these families have the right to apply for asylum, and should not be torn apart while the process is taking place. I condemn the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating immigrant families. This policy goes against the very ideals that our country was founded on, and I will continue to fight to keep families together.”

June 8, 2018

 

The Honorable Jeff Sessions                                The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Attorney General of the United States                 Secretary of Homeland Security

United States Department of Justice                     United States Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20530                                        Washington, DC 20528

 

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II

Secretary of Health and Human Services

United States Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, DC 20416

Dear Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Nielsen, and Secretary Azar:

I write regarding reports that potentially over 100 women seeking asylum are being detained at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in SeaTac, Washington. Reports have also indicated that these individuals arrived in Washington state after being separated from their children and transferred from the U.S.-Mexico border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I am extremely concerned that the Administration is violating longstanding asylum law and infringing on the due process of these women, while inflicting lasting harm to their families and children.

It has also come to my attention that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has entered into Inter-Agency Agreements with ICE to detain individuals at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Sheridan, Oregon, the FCI in Phoenix, Arizona, the Federal Satellite Low (FSL) in La Tuna, Texas, and the FCI in Victorville, California, in addition to the FDC in SeaTac. As the Administration prepares to separate more families and hold parents away from their children in federal detention facilities across the country, I request the following information to better understand these new developments in immigration detention protocol:

  • Where are the children of the parents being detained at SeaTac and other prisons across the country?
  • What are the current policies in place for housing and caring for the sudden large number of children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border?
  • What are you doing to ensure parents and children are transferred to locations within close proximity to each other?
  • Since these individuals have the legal right to seek asylum, why are they being held in federal prison while their asylum claims are being processed?
  • Do the detained people have access to legal services? What are you doing to ensure they know their legal rights as asylum seekers?
  • When will the people detained at SeaTac and other federal prisons be released and when will they be reunited with their children?
  • What protocol do you have in place to reunite parents with their children?

In addition to answering these questions, I urge you to immediately halt the terribly inhumane policy of separating children from their parents and work diligently to reunite families. This “zero tolerance policy” goes against basic human dignity.

Thank you for your time and attention to this critical issue, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

Adam Smith

Member of Congress

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A PDF Version of the letter can be found HERE.

Washington D.C.Congressman Adam Smith issued the following video statement in support of Net Neutrality. Below is the text of the statement, and the full video statement can be viewed HERE.

Congressman Smith has taken the following actions to protect access to the internet in advance of, and following, the Federal Communication Commission decision to end Net Neutrality in late 2017:

  • Original co-sponsor of H.J.Res. 129 – Congressional Review Act (CRA) joint resolution of disapproval. H.J.Res 129 allows Congress to use a less cumbersome procedure to negate the FCC’s rule change than passing a bill through the regular legislative process; if enacted, would reverse the FCC’s decision to discard the 2015 Open Internet Rules, thereby maintaining net neutrality.
  • Signed Discharge Petition for H.J.Res. 129, the CRA joint resolution of disapproval – to bring the resolution to the House Floor for a vote.
  • Co-sponsor of H.R. 4585, the Save Net Neutrality Act of 2017 –  legislation that would have prohibited the FCC from adopting the so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom” order that overturned Net Neutrality.
  • Joined a letter with Rep. Mike Doyle and over one hundred other Members of Congress in calling on FCC Chairman Pai to delay implementation of the repeal of net neutrality.
  • Independently weighed in with (by letter) the FCC Chairman to convey the sentiments of the thousands of constituents who wrote in asking the FCC to reject the order to eliminate net neutrality regulations.

Transcript of Video Statement

Net neutrality is an incredibly important issue. It sounds complicated at first glance, in terms of how do you regulate the internet, what’s involved. But what’s really involved is the freedom of the internet, and that’s incredibly important. Net neutrality needs to be protected. And what it means is very simple. It means that everybody has equal access to the internet. What the FCC has done under President Trump, is they have allowed companies to give out special access, so that companies may be more easily to get their content to the user on the internet. This undermines innovation and undermines freedom. Say you’ve developed a brand new application that you think could compete with, Google, Yahoo, anybody. But now your website gets to the consumers slower because some other content provider has paid more to the people that provide access to the internet; to get faster access. 

Well that undermines innovation, that undermines freedom, and it stifles the best parts of the internet, which are creativity and innovation. We need to restore net neutrality in any way that we can. We need to keep putting pressure on the FCC to change their ruling, and if we can do stuff on the state level to at least give us net neutrality locally, we should do that as well. I cannot possibly be in more strongly in support of net neutrality. I urge people to speak out as loudly as they can to get us back to the place where we have net neutrality and a free and open internet for all.