Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (WA-09), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), and Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today sent a letter to Director Carvajal of the Bureau of Prisons and Director Washington of the U.S. Marshals Service regarding the concerning COVID-19 outbreak at Federal Detention Center (FDC) SeaTac.

“According to information from the FDC, there were 206 COVID-19 cases on January 6, 2021 – almost a third of the population positive at one time,” the members wrote. “An outbreak leading to such a high percentage of positive cases raises significant questions about the COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures in place at the FDC.

“Members of Congress have repeatedly called on BOP to take more actions to prevent and contain COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities,” they continued. “It is known that congregate settings such as prisons are at higher risks for transmission and outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19.”

You can read the full letter here and below:

Dear Mr. Carvajal and Mr. Washington:

We write with grave concern regarding the COVID-19 practices at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) SeaTac. According to information from the FDC, there were 206 COVID-19 cases on January 6, 2021 – almost a third of the population positive at one time. An outbreak leading to such a high number of cases raises significant questions about the COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures in place at the FDC.

Members of Congress have repeatedly called on BOP to take more actions to prevent and contain COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities. It is known that congregate settings such as prisons are at higher risks for transmission and outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19. Please provide responses to the below questions and requests for information by March 5, 2021:

  • How many incarcerated individuals were transferred into the FDC between August 1, 2020 and December 22, 2020 when the moratorium on transfers began? For each week during this period, please provide the number of individuals transferred into FDC and the facility that they came from.
  • What procedures were in place to screen incarcerated individuals for COVID-19 during transfer to the FDC and prior to release into the general population at the FDC? This should include, but is not limited to, procedures for quarantining individuals transferring into the FDC, restrictions on interactions between guards and recently transferred individuals, and COVID-19 testing protocols.
    • Did these transfer screening procedures change in any way between August 1 and December 22, 2020? What was the reasoning for changing or deciding not to change the COVID-19 screening and mitigation procedures for transfers?
  • Did any individuals transferred to the FDC between August 1 and December 22, 2020 test positive for COVID-19 during screening and prior to being released into the general population? If so, please provide the number of individuals, the types of test used to determine infection, the dates of their positive tests, and the facility they were transferred from.
    • What steps were taken if an individual tested positive after arriving at the FDC, but prior to release into the general population? This should include, but is not limited to, procedures for isolating individuals transferring into the FDC, restrictions on interactions between guards and COVID-19 positive individuals, and other relevant information.
    • Were any attempts made at contact tracing for any individual who tested positive within two weeks of transferring into the facility?
  • Were any of the COVID-19 cases at the FDC between October 1, 2020 and January 5, 2021 diagnosed in individuals who had been transferred to the FDC in the prior 30 days. 
  • According to your office, the moratorium on transfers to the FDC ended on January 6, 2021.
    • What rationale is there for lifting this moratorium?
    • What changes to the transfer process have been made since January 6, 2021 to better screen for and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks? Will the facility’s test specimens be sequenced to detect emerging COVID-19 variants?
    • Since January 6, 2021, how many incarcerated individuals have been transferred to the FDC? What is the breakdown of the facilities that the individuals were transferred from?
  • What resources, equipment, and/or mitigation measures are in place to protect facility staff from COVID-19 infections? What type and frequency of testing is available to staff to detect COVID-19?
  • How has the BOP used its discretion to reduce the population at the FDC in accordance with March 26, 2020 memorandum from Attorney General Barr, and the provisions in the First Step Act and the CARES Act granting authorities to transfer vulnerable individuals through compassionate release and elderly home confinement? How many incarcerated individuals at the FDC have been identified as eligible for safe release? How many individuals at the FDC have been released under these authorities?
  • Legal advocates have expressed difficulties communicating with their clients at the FDC throughout the pandemic. During the recent outbreak, the FDC added even more restrictions on the ability of individuals who had tested positive to communicate with their legal counsel including prohibiting access to telecommunications. These restrictions on access to counsel are alarming.
    • What steps is the FDC taking to not overly restrict and improve the ability for legal counsel to communicate with their clients?
    • What investments are being made and other actions being taken at the FDC now to ensure future restrictions on telecommunications will not be necessary even in the event of another outbreak?
  • In response to a clear failure to contain COVID-19 at the FDC, what actions has the FDC taken to alter its prevention and mitigation practices to prevent future outbreaks?
  • What are the FDC’s current vaccine distribution plans, and when does the facility plan to start vaccinating those who are in custody? When does the facility plan to start vaccinating those who work at the facility?

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (WA-09) and Katherine Clark (MA-05) sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson urging the agency to implement report language from the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2021 that would help communities with repairing or replacing noise mitigation on homes.

“Residences across our districts received sound insulation and other mitigation in the earliest phases of the FAA’s noise mitigation program in the 1980s and 1990s,” wrote Reps. Adam Smith and Katherine Clark. “At the time, materials used for sound insulation were of lower quality than what is used today. Additionally, the installation in the early phases of the program was sometimes done without proper ventilation or attention to other structural concerns, leading to cases of mold or structural damage in certain homes. To ensure the airports can take advantage of this exemption, it is vital that the FAA quickly establish a process for airports to be reimbursed for repairing or replacing noise mitigation in homes that were installed prior to 1993.”

Airport Improvement Program (AIP) regulations bar airports from applying for federal funds for the same project more than one time, meaning that residences with failing sound insulation historically have not been entitled to repairs or replacements using AIP funds. The report language included in the appropriations bill passed at the end of the year directed the FAA to allow airports to utilize AIP funds for the purpose of repairing or replacing noise mitigation on homes that were insulated prior to 1993.

You can read the full letter here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement today following President Biden’s plan with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to safely reopen schools.

“The Biden Administration and Democratic leaders have put forward a good road map to getting our kids back to school.  I strongly support the continued discussions between educators, administrators, and public health officials on charting the best path to enabling our schools to reopen for in-school instruction in a way that ensures the safety of all involved.  Studies and analysis have made clear that in-person learning is crucial for our children, but we must do the work necessary to make sure that it can be done safely, and with buy-in and support from educators and families alike. 

“I want to sincerely thank all the educators, parents, school administrators, public health officials, and others who have reached out to me to answer questions and offer perspectives on how to handle this difficult public policy challenge.  It has helped me understand how best to approach it. 

“First, I strongly support the swift passage of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package. The pandemic exposed the cracks in our systems, and we know both COVID-19 and the economic recession have disproportionately impacted low-income households, people of color, and families with essential workers.  The relief bill contains critical funding for schools as well as economic support for struggling families. Its passage will not only make safe reopening more achievable but will help meet many of the other underlying structural inequities faced by communities hit the hardest as well.  States should ensure that this federal funding is provided to school districts in addition to existing state and local resources, as opposed to making harmful cuts at this time of crisis. I will continue to work to ensure the passage of this legislation as quickly as possible.

“Next, we must work quickly to ensure all educators and staff receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccination is not absolute, one-hundred percent protection, but it does greatly decrease the risk of infection.  There are roughly 150,000 school personnel in our state of over 7 million people, so prioritizing them would not significantly set back vaccine distribution to other populations.

“We should also work towards a plan that gives people an option of either returning to school in person or continuing online learning to the greatest extent possible.  I understand how difficult this is, but the truth is every person’s situation is different in terms of pre-existing conditions, people in their households, tolerance for risk, need for/access to childcare, and many other factors.  Across the country, we have seen this model work and we must be willing to give flexibility to all involved.

“It is crucial that any plan for returning to the classroom is developed in close consultation with educators and other school district personnel.  They are the ones most impacted and also the ones with the most direct knowledge of how to make any implementation plan work effectively in the school and classroom.

“I want to express my deepest appreciation to all educators, administrators, school board members, school personnel, and parents who have had to struggle since last March to figure out how best to take care of our children during this pandemic.  This has demanded great sacrifices from educators and staff, who have gone the extra mile to ensure students have access to the resources needed for digital learning.

“My son is now in his senior year and as challenging as this has been for our family, I know that it doesn’t even begin to compare to the challenges so many people have faced across our district, state, and the country.  It has not been easy, but with the help of educators, family, and neighbors, people have been able to meet the challenge.

“The bottom line is: it is up to policymakers and school districts to make every effort to develop safe reopening plans that have buy-in from educators, staff, and families. This will require difficult conversations, and it demands that we listen carefully to each other’s concerns. I look forward to continuing the conversation and will continue to fight for additional resources from the Federal Government to provide school districts with the resources necessary to carry out safe reopening plans that address each community’s unique concerns.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement today after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald J. Trump in the impeachment trial for the incitement of the January 6th insurrection.

“The impeachment trial for Donald Trump should have been an open and shut case. Trump and his supporters spent months spreading the Big Lie and propaganda about the election, and on January 6th, the former president incited a violent mob to follow through on his advocacy of political violence. These pro-Trump extremists attempted to stage a coup, overthrow the democratic process, and violently overturn the certification of our free and fair presidential election. His hateful rhetoric the morning of the insurrection was consistent with his repeated refusal to denounce white supremacy and to stand up to racists, bigots, and anti-Semites, many of whom attended his speech and desecrated the Capitol. This heinous domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol should have been the wake-up call Republicans needed to finally stand up for our democracy. 

“There is no question that Trump violated his oath of office. He incited this mob, encouraged his supporters the morning of the attack, and refused to denounce or stop the violence which ultimately led to the death of five Americans, including members of law enforcement. We are forever grateful for the service of the Capitol Hill Police and others who stood tall in the face of danger and of those who lost their lives in defense of our democracy.

“From the very beginning, Trump and his co-conspirators, including many Republicans in Congress, lied about the presidential election in a brazen attempt to hold onto power, even at the cost of lives and our democracy. This crucial vote will almost certainly play a part in how these Senators will be remembered and judged by history. Trump demonstrated he was unfit to serve as President and is unfit to hold any public office in the future. This lack of accountability is antithetical and insulting to our democracy and our Constitution, and it is my hope that other courses of action will be taken to hold all those involved accountable. We must set a precedent for future Presidents to ensure that what occurred on January 6th can never happen again.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement following House introduction of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act – a bill he is an original cosponsor on – which would strengthen workers’ power to organize and negotiate for fairer paychecks, better benefits, and safer working conditions.

“Strong unions are paramount for combatting economic inequality and ensuring workers’ rights are protected. The PRO Act would be the most significant upgrade to U.S. labor law in 80 years which would strengthen workers’ power to organize and negotiate for fairer paychecks, better benefits, and safer working conditions.

“As income inequality continues to increase, only ten percent of American workers today are union members which is the lowest rate on record. Wages have not increased at the same pace as the rising costs of education, child care, housing, and other basic necessities, and this legislation is a direct response to the struggle that many hardworking families face, especially in a pandemic. This bill will help strengthen these unions, hold companies and executives accountable for working conditions, and close loopholes that corporations use to undermine the right to organize.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further shown how vulnerable workers truly are without the ability to collectively bargain and how crucial it is to ensuring workers have better pay, benefits, and safety. After decades of attacks on workers’ rights to organize and profits off of rising income inequality, passing the PRO Act will take a giant step towards restoring a fair and equitable economy that empowers workers to hold companies and executives accountable for working conditions.”

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