Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, this week sent a letter calling on President Trump to extend Title 32 activation of the National Guard beyond the June 24 end date to September 2020 at the earliest.
 
“As we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, our National Guard members have played an essential role in our continued response,” said Chairman Smith. “When called upon, the Guard has performed essential tasks like supporting our food banks, assembling test kits, and bolstering contact tracing capacity. Now, as it becomes clear that the pandemic is far from over, the President should extend Title 32 status to ensure our continued response includes the Guard – our country needs them.”
 
“You don’t spell gratitude to the National Guard members who have been building hospitals, doing testing in nursing homes and boxing food at food banks during the pandemic by cheating them out of retirement or GI bill benefits,” Rep. Speier said. “COVID-19 will not magically end at the stroke of midnight on June 24—the President must extend Title 32 status so the Guard can stay in the fight against the coronavirus. Reopening the economy and saving countless lives depends on it.”
 
The activation of the National Guard under Title 32 provides essential support to states and localities as they confront this public health crisis. Guard members are assisting with testing, especially for vulnerable populations like in nursing homes; logistics; and warehouse distribution support, and all these efforts are essential to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on every state, facilitating a responsible reopening, and getting our economy back on a path to recovery.
 
A copy of the letter can be found here.
 
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today issued the following statement in response to reports that the Trump Administration plans to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty:

“The Administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty is a slap in the face to our allies in Europe, leaves our deployed forces in the region at risk, and is in blatant violation of the law. This decision weakens our national security interests, isolates the United States since the Treaty will continue without us, and abandons a useful tool to hold Russia accountable.

“What’s more, this decision has been made without any consultation with Congress. Not only does the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act require a minimum 120-days’ notification of the withdrawal notice, but also multiple communications from the House Armed Services Committee and other congressional chairmen have gone unanswered.

“The Trump Administration continues to give Russia the upper hand with regards to arms control, which leaves our allies and deployed forces less protected in Europe. Despite the Department of Defense’s rhetoric about the dire need to prepare for ‘great power competition,’ this decision will undoubtedly do the exact opposite, and further fracture our relationships with allies needed to push back against Russian aggression in the region.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today issued the following statement after the Navy granted its first waiver to allow a transgender service member to remain in uniform. The waiver was granted to a Sailor over a year after President Trump’s discriminatory transgender ban went into effect, which threatened her ability to continue serving the country after nearly a decade.

“The Navy’s decision to grant a waiver to this Sailor exposes President Trump’s transgender ban for what it is: Illogical and discriminatory. If a service member has proven that they are fit to serve, then it is irrelevant if they are transgender or cisgender. 

“I am glad that this Sailor, who has dedicated nearly a decade of her life to defending our country as a surface warfare officer and is highly qualified, can now continue to serve in her preferred gender. It is unfortunate however, that this decision doesn’t change the circumstance for thousands of other transgender service members who still face discrimination because of President Trump’s ban.

“It is time for this ban to end. The members of our military deserve our respect for their service and sacrifice – including those who are transgender.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement today after voting for The Heroes Act, which would address the continued public health crisis and provide desperately needed support for struggling families and essential workers. The legislation provides funding for testing and tracing measures, support for frontline workers, and strengthens assistance for individuals and families in Washington’s ninth district and beyond.

“Our communities, workers, and families urgently need more relief amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The Heroes Act would help address the devastating health and economic impacts caused by the pandemic and support people in need across the country.

“Frontline workers continue to risk their lives every day to provide health care, food and groceries, public safety, transportation, and other services to our communities. The Heroes Act would give these essential workers the hazard pay they deserve. In addition, we invest almost one billion dollars to assist state and local governments in providing childcare for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This bill moves us forward in the most important aspect of our recovery: addressing the pandemic itself. The Heroes Act commits $75 billion for testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures to help us safely reopen our country. It provides relief to alleviate the dire financial situation that hospitals, community health centers, and other providers are facing. Additionally, the legislation makes substantial investments in the research and development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

“I have heard constantly from small businesses who have had to close their doors or reduce operations during the pandemic. The Heroes Act extends and strengthens the Payroll Protection Program to ensure that it reaches underserved communities and nonprofits and that small businesses feel comfortable utilizing this funding. The bill would also replenish funding for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for small businesses.

“States and localities, including cities throughout the 9th District, have said repeatedly that funds are desperately needed to help cover coronavirus-related expenditures and lost revenue. This bill would inject one trillion dollars across state, local, and tribal governments. We are already seeing cities and counties start to furlough workers – without significant federal funding, these furloughs will continue and the impact on vital services such as housing assistance, public health programs, education, worker training, and public safety will be devastating.

“The Heroes Act also follows through on our commitment to support individuals and families struggling during the pandemic. The bill provides another round of direct cash payments to all low- and middle-income households. It increases the SNAP benefit by 15% to help ensure everyone can put food on the table for themselves and their families. The bill would extend unemployment insurance provisions previously passed by Congress to increase benefits for unemployed workers and ensure workers who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible.

“Immigrants have largely been left out of Congressional relief efforts to date because of opposition from Republicans. Today’s bill finally recognizes the contributions that immigrants bring to our communities. It makes immigrants eligible for direct cash payments, ensures that all immigrants can receive COVID-19 testing and treatment for free, and includes immigrants in the hazard pay for essential workers on the frontlines.

“Individuals, families, and businesses across the country are still struggling. The Heroes Act would help alleviate this suffering. Congress must continue to work to advance legislation that meets the needs of our communities and helps us begin to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.” 

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Representative Smith and Senator Murray led the Washington state lawmakers in a letter to the heads of the NWDC requesting weekly updates on the impact of COVID-19 at the detention center 

ICYMI: Officials on Friday confirmed the first positive COVID-19 test at the Northwest detention center in Tacoma – MORE HERE

Members: “As the numbers of detainees and detention facility staff infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, we share the concerns that public health experts have expressed regarding the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic in detention facilities”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Led by U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a group of Washington state lawmakers today urged leaders of Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center to provide regular updates on the steps they are taking to mitigate and respond to any potential outbreaks of COVID-19 at the facility. The lawmakers sent a letter to the head of GEO Group, the company that operates the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field Officer for the NWDC requesting that they provide weekly briefings to the lawmakers regarding health and safety conditions at the facility and the impact of COVID-19 on detainees and staff. Representative Smith and Senator Murray were joined on the letter on the letter by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as well as Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), and Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd).

“The NWDC is one of the largest ICE dedicated facilities in the country, and as the numbers of detainees and detention facility staff infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, we share the concerns that public health experts have expressed regarding the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic in detention facilities,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers continued: “We appreciate your prompt attention to the issues we have raised, and look forward to weekly congressional telephonic briefings surrounding the safety practices of the NWDC amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

The lawmakers’ letter follows reports of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 case at the Tacoma facility. In previous briefings with the lawmakers, NWDC officials have not indicated that they are taking the necessary measures to protect detainees and staff from COVID-19. In an April 24th telephone briefing, ICE officials informed the Washington state lawmakers that they had identified 128 detainees for potential release because they are were at high risk for severe illness due to the COVID-19 threat, but at the time had only released 16 detainees and did not plan to release any more. During that briefing, ICE officials also told the lawmakers that despite testing more than 1,500 detainees across the country, only 7 detainees at NWDC had been tested since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous briefings, ICE officials have not been clear as to whether proper social distancing at NWDC is being practiced, or is even possible with the number of detainees in the facility.

Read full letter below or HERE.

Dear Mr. Zoley and Ms. Asher,

Given the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and our continued conversations with staff and officials within the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) and at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we write to request a weekly telephonic briefing for congressional offices in Washington state in order to ensure further steps are being taken by GEO and the NWDC to plan, mitigate, and respond to any potential outbreak at the Northwest Detention Center. This is especially important since last Friday, May 8, ICE confirmed that a detainee tested “recovered positive” during medical intake screening upon arrival at NWDC, the first known positive case at the NWDC to date.

As of April 25th, 2020, ICE has reported 29,675 as their total detained population. Further, 869 detainees, 42 ICE employees at detention facilities, and 102 ICE employees not assigned to detention facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.  The NWDC is one of the largest ICE dedicated facilities in the country, and as the numbers of detainees and detention facility staff infected with COVID-19 continues to climb, we share the concerns that public health experts have expressed regarding the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic in detention facilities.

In our congressional telephonic briefing on April 24th, 2020, ICE informed us that 128 detainees at NWDC had been identified for potential release based on their higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19. However, at the time of the call, only 16 people had actually been released and ICE indicated that they did not plan to release additional detainees from the pool of 128 people identified as medically vulnerable. In addition, ICE stated that only 7 detainees have been tested in total at the NWDC since the COVID-19 outbreak, despite the fact that ICE has tested 1,528 detainees nation-wide, and Washington state was among the first states to be hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. We express concern over the delayed release and testing of these individuals, and would like to continue receiving weekly congressional telephonic briefings from ICE and officials operating the NWDC regarding the testing and release of other medically vulnerable individuals.

On congressional telephonic briefings, ICE has also claimed that it set an occupancy threshold of 70% inside its facilities to reduce the number of detainees, but also admitted that this threshold was likely insufficient to meet the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ICE reported to our staffs that its occupancy is currently at 45%, well below this 70% figure, but equally could not confirm whether this threshold is actually sufficient for maintaining social distancing guidelines. Even more concerning were comments made by officials on congressional telephonic briefings that indicated that ICE officers could not necessarily enforce social distancing guidelines among detainees in the center.

We appreciate your prompt attention to the issues we have raised, and look forward to weekly congressional telephonic briefings surrounding the safety practices of the NWDC amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Sincerely,

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