Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement on the 10th anniversary of the end of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“Ten years ago, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ allowed tens of thousands of LBGTQ service members to serve openly for the first time. Our men and women in uniform are the backbone of our national security – all Americans owe them, and their families, a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ affirmed that we, as a nation, respect and honor the service of these patriotic men and women, no matter who they love.

“The last decade has shown us that the diversity of our military is a point of strength and has proven when service members serve openly, our national security benefits. Despite the progress we have made these last ten years, working to create a more diverse and inclusive military, there is still much to be done. Because of the Trump Administration’s hateful policies, thousands of transgender service members cannot serve openly. These soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines deserve the same honor and respect as their cisgender peers, for their service and sacrifice is no different. Thankfully, President-elect Biden has made it clear he intends to reverse the Trump-era ‘trans ban’ immediately so that these patriots can continue to serve their nation as their authentic selves.

“Today is a day to reflect on our progress and reaffirm our commitment to LGBTQ Americans. Our next task must be enactment of the Equality Act, so that the LGBTQ community is protected from discrimination and prejudice.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the COVID-19 relief bill:

“Today the House came to an agreement and passed a COVID-19 relief package that will be a public health and economic lifeline to families and businesses that have been reeling due to the pandemic. However, this is nowhere near the amount of support that Americans need right now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump have blocked a more robust relief package for seven months as thousands of Americans die every day from COVID-19. We passed this bill to get immediate relief to the people that desperately need it, but we must do more to provide support to struggling families and businesses.

“First and foremost, this package includes significant resources to help combat the pandemic. It includes critical funding for accelerating vaccine distribution that will help make the vaccine free and widely accessible and communicate to the public about the importance of the vaccine. The package also includes funding for local public health departments who are on the frontlines of COVID-19 response and on the brink of cutting staff and services.

“This bill also adds additional economic support for families that are struggling to pay rent, unable to put food on the table, or who are unemployed. The bill makes a significant investment in additional funds for rental and housing assistance while also extending the eviction moratorium through the end of January 2021. It provides direct cash payments of $600, and we successfully fought to expand eligibility to mixed status families who were kept out of direct payments under the CARES Act. The pandemic and economic downturn have caused millions of people to become unemployed – this bill gives an additional $300 per week to each recipient and extends the enhanced pandemic unemployment programs through March 31, 2021.

“Food insecurity has grown significantly during the pandemic and this bill includes additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food programs for struggling families. The agreement also provides funding for schools and colleges to mitigate virus transmission, and funding for child care assistance to help parents get back to work and keep child care providers open. The package also includes the largest expansion of Pell Grant recipients in over a decade, ensuring more than 1.5 million students will now receive the maximum benefit.

“Over the course of the pandemic, I have met with countless small businesses in dire need of help. This package adds additional funding to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), improves the requirements to make it more accessible for small businesses, and allows some small businesses that are still struggling to get a second round of PPP loans to help retain workers and allow their businesses to survive.

“Every American needs to understand that Mitch McConnell, Congressional Republicans, and President Trump fought against us every step of the way as we worked to provide as much relief as possible. The support provided in this package is necessary, but insufficient. I look forward to working with the incoming Biden-Harris Administration in the new Congress to build on this package.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement after the House passed H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 with strong bipartisan support:

“Today the House sent a strong, bipartisan message to the American people: our service members and our national security are more important than politics. By passing the FY21 NDAA conference report with a veto-proof majority, the House has proven to be capable of legislating and reaching compromise that results in good policy outcomes.

“I was proud to work closely with Vice Chair Anthony Brown, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to take bold steps to promote diversity and inclusion and help address systemic racism in our military institutions. Provisions in the bill will remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia across the military that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and will create a Chief Diversity Officer within the Department of Defense to ensure our military reflects our country’s diversity. The bill adds $20 million in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and directs the Secretary to partner with minority institutions of higher education and public and private sector organizations to diversify and strengthen the national security workforce.

“The FY21 NDAA also takes important steps to promote the wellbeing of servicemembers and their families, veterans, and the entire federal workforce. It provides a long-sought after benefit for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans who are struggling with health complications after being exposed to Agent Orange while serving their country. The bill will permit most federal employees to carry over an additional 25% of annual leave into 2021 in recognition of their dedicated service during the pandemic. To help protect civilian employees across the federal government from discrimination, the bill includes the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act that would establish independent Equal Employment Opportunity Programs at each federal agency to independently address complaints of discrimination and retaliation. This year’s bill also extends paid parental leave to approximately 100,000 federal civilians inadvertently excluded from last year’s legislation.

“For years, the NDAA has taken important steps to combat climate change and advance green energy initiatives. This bill includes strong provisions to ensure DoD is planning for and mitigating the effects of climate change and implementing energy and climate resiliency requirements in their military installation planning. The bill would also push the DoD to remain a leader in adopting renewable energy and advancing green energy measures through the expansion of hybrid and electric vehicles, microgrids, energy metering and on-site energy production at military facilities, and operational energy research.

“After months of hard work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress, I am proud of our finished product. Given the strength of the bill, I am confident the conference report will receive similarly robust support in the Senate this week before heading to the President’s desk for signature. It is my hope that the President signs the FY21 NDAA into law given how important passage is for our service members and their families, however, I remain confident that Congress will exercise our authority to override a potential veto should he choose to put his ego first.”

A summary of the provisions in the FY21 NDAA is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after a federal court ordered the Trump administration to restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to its original form in the Batalla Vidal v. Wolf case.

“The ruling is a major victory not just for immigrant youth and their families but for all Americans. By upholding this critical program, we are restoring the values that America should reflect and instilling hope for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and future DACA recipients who call America home. From the first attempt by the Trump administration to end DACA in 2017, immigrants have been subjected to the Trump administration’s xenophobic policies. This win was made possible by the tireless efforts of countless DACA recipients and advocates who made their voices heard while their livelihoods were under attack.

“The ruling reopens DACA to first-time applicants, restores work authorization and renewals to two years, and makes travel on advance parole more widely available to DACA recipients so they can feel safe and live without fear of being separated from their families and communities. While we celebrate this victory, I look forward to working with my colleagues and the new administration under President-elect Biden to sign into law permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. This is a long overdue step in the fight for a more fair and just immigration system.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (WA-09), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Denny Heck (WA-10), and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Cuffari about the treatment of individuals at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). The letter comes after a troubling report was released by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights on the misuse of solitary confinement at the NWDC.

“For years, we have raised concerns about reports of inadequate health care, medical neglect, and the inhumane treatment of individuals detained at the NWDC,” wrote the members. “Due to the demonstrated lack of transparency, accountability, and decency documented in the Center for Human Rights report and past reviews conducted by your office, we request an immediate investigation into the recent allegations of violence against detained immigrants and a comprehensive review of the use of solitary confinement at the NWDC.”

“Solitary confinement is not the only pressing issue at the NWDC,” the members continued. “With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading to record levels, including in Pierce County, individuals in immigration detention centers remain extremely vulnerable to outbreaks. Several individuals detained at the NWDC are reportedly on hunger strikes in protest of inadequate policies and a lack of communication regarding the spread and prevention of COVID-19. In addition, our offices have been made aware of serious allegations of violence and abuse against detained immigrants in recent weeks. These recent allegations are even more alarming given the history of retaliation, the significant use of solitary confinement, and a lack of transparency at the NWDC.”

You can read the full letter here and below:

Dear Inspector General Cuffari:

We write to bring your attention to the human rights conditions at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington. For years, we have raised concerns about reports of inadequate health care, medical neglect, and the inhumane treatment of individuals detained at the NWDC. Further, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and concern over potential spread at the NWDC has continued to exacerbate our need for communication regarding these reports.

On November 30, 2020, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights released a troubling report examining the considerable use of solitary confinement at the NWDC.[1] According to data provided by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the NWDC detains people in solitary confinement longer than any other ICE facility in the country. The report also found that 34 percent of solitary confinement placements between September 2013 and March 2020 were flagged to indicate the person had been previously diagnosed with a mental illness. The use of solitary confinement for individuals diagnosed with mental illness is contrary to international law and ICE’s own standards that the GEO Group purports to follow, and is seriously concerning. In addition, the report documents the use of solitary confinement as retaliation against individuals engaging in hunger strikes or speaking out against conditions at the NWDC.

The findings from the Center for Human Rights are consistent with a report issued by your office on June 3, 2019 highlighting the misuse of solitary confinement at several immigration detention centers around the country. The widespread misuse of solitary confinement at the NWDC was also raised with your office in a letter sent on October 23, 2019.[2] In July of this year, the Capping Report released by the OIG following an unannounced inspection of the NWDC in March 2019 found inappropriate segregation practices that “violate detention policies and standards, and infringe on detainee rights.”[3] In addition, it appears the investigation by your office into the tragic death of Mergansana Amar on November 24, 2018, who was kept in solitary confinement at the NWDC before his death, has yet to be completed, despite rising concerns regarding the safety and rights of  detained immigrants.

Solitary confinement is not the only pressing issue at the NWDC. With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading to record levels, including in Pierce County,[4] individuals in immigration detention centers remain extremely vulnerable to outbreaks. Several individuals detained at the NWDC are reportedly on hunger strikes in protest of inadequate policies and a lack of communication regarding the spread and prevention of COVID-19. In addition, our offices have been made aware of serious allegations of violence and abuse against detained immigrants in recent weeks. These recent allegations are even more alarming given the history of retaliation, the significant use of solitary confinement, and a lack of transparency at the NWDC. The OIG previously found that individuals detained at the NWDC have difficulties resolving problems through existing grievance and communications systems and identified a failure by staff at the NWDC to properly document grievance logs.[5]

Due to the demonstrated lack of transparency, accountability, and decency documented in the Center for Human Rights report and past reviews conducted by your office, we request an immediate investigation into the recent allegations of violence against detained immigrants and a comprehensive review of the use of solitary confinement at the NWDC.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

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