Press Releases

Washington, D.C.-  Today, Congressman Adam Smith reintroduced the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, legislation that would create enforceable standards and improve conditions at immigration detention centers while encouraging alternatives to detention and the repeal of the detention bed mandate.  The Northwest Detention Center, a detention facility in Congressman Smith’s district, experienced a large hunger strike among its detainees in March 2014 to protest conditions and treatment within the facility.  Over a year later, detainees at the facility report that they continue to experience unfair, unjust, and inhumane treatment.

“Our immigration detention system is expensive, inhumane, and badly broken,” said Congressman Adam Smith.  “Our government spends millions of dollars detaining fathers, mothers, and children who have committed no crime in unacceptable conditions as they await immigration proceedings.  This legislation would improve conditions by creating enforceable standards that are established and negotiated by a group of community stakeholders.”

The stakeholders would not only include the Department of Homeland Security, but also representatives of State and local governments, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, nongovernmental organizations (NGO) with expertise working on behalf of aliens in detention facilities, NGOs with expertise advocating for asylum seeker, and more.  The standards would address issues around solitary confinement, investigating grievances, treatment of detainees, access to legal representation, and ensuring quality food.  

“We applaud Representative Adam Smith for his leadership,” said Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica.  “Federal agencies continue to provide inadequate attention to the fundamental right to fair and humane treatment including limits on the use of solitary confinement, increased access to telephones, attorneys and translation services, and protection of detainees against retaliation for filing a complaint or grievance.  Many immigrants have waited months (and sometimes years) in detention centers while awaiting legal proceedings.” 

In addition to improving standards and conditions, the legislation also takes steps to expand alternatives to detention.  Alternatives offer a more fair, cost-effective and humane approach while still ensuring that more than 90 percent of individuals appear at immigration proceedings.  

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) released a statement saying, “This Act would both expand the use of community-based alternatives to detention and create increased protections for migrants in detention.  These alternatives result in high rates of compliance and appearance, improved integration outcomes, and improved health and welfare- all at a reduced cost to the government.  Overall, the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act offers a strong model for how the United States can uphold its humanitarian obligations while ensuring compliance with immigration law.”

This legislation also recognizes that an expansion in alternatives must come with the repeal of the detention bed quota.  

The Detention Watch Network expressed support saying  they “welcome Representative Smith's leadership in addressing many of the injustices endemic to the US immigration detention system. From addressing the egregious immigration detention bed quota, to curbing some of the worst aspects of misguided mandatory detention laws, to improving access to legal representation for people who are detained, this bill is a clear step in the right direction and a welcome departure from the current system which treats immigrant lives as numbers to meet a quota and dollars to make a profit.”

Maru Villalpando of Latino Advocacy added that "This bill is a model of true collaboration and partnership with those impacted by the detention and deportation machine that profits off their misery, and off the separation of families.  While we continue our efforts on ending deportations and detentions, we will continue supporting legislative efforts such as this.”

This legislation has been cosponsored by Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2), Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Rep. Theodore Deuch (FL-1), Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11), Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), and Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7).  It’s also received support from many civil society organizations such as OneAmerica, LIRS, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Detention Watch Network, and Latino Advocacy.

For a section by section on the bill, click here.

Washington, D.C.: Congressman Adam Smith and Senator Patty Murray released the following statement upon hearing that Nestora Salgado was on a hunger strike:

“It is unacceptable for the Mexican government to continue to imprison Nestora Salgado in conditions that fail to protect her life and physical integrity. Nestora’s health continues to deteriorate and without immediate action by the Mexican government, Nestora’s life is truly at risk.  

“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, United Nations human rights experts, a Mexican federal court, and many civil society groups in the United States and Mexico have all called for immediate action by the Mexican government to protect Nestora, which is long overdue. 

“We urge the United States government to take immediate action to secure Nestora’s release on humanitarian grounds.  Nestora has been deprived from due process and justice by the Mexican government and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that she receives it.”

Ms. Salgado is a resident of Renton, WA who was arrested for her leadership in community police group in her hometown of Olinalá in the state of Guerrero, which has a long tradition of legally-recognized community self-defense groups.  As her Members of Congress, Congressman Smith and Senator Murray have been working with Nestora’s family and her legal representation at Seattle University to help secure her release.  They have joined to send letters  to the State Department to bring attention to the case and ensure Nestora can safely return to her family.  

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith released the following statement announcing his opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act: 

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the Budget Control Act caps are extremely damaging and as long as Congress fails to enact a solution, a variety of key national priorities will continue to suffer. I understand that finding a compromise to remove the caps has been elusive, but that does not justify the use of gimmicks to protect one part of the budget, and shortchange other portions that are vitally important to the future of our country. Even worse, this short-term work-around does not enable the Department of Defense to undertake long term planning or provide the certainty that they can count on such funding in the future.  I have great respect for Chairman Thornberry, but I cannot vote for this bill under these circumstances.

The National Defense Authorization Act has never been perfect. And it will never be perfect. What matters most is that, on balance, this bill represents a commitment to our national security, and to the individuals who we ask to stand watch and execute the missions necessary to ensure our security.  In today’s dangerous and unpredictable world, we must ensure that our military has the resources and tools that it needs to meet the threats of today as well as tomorrow.

However, that is just one piece of the puzzle. Maintaining our national security requires more than a strong military. If we do not have a strong economy, and build a solid foundation for future generations, then we cannot ensure our national security in the long term. If we stop investing in the American people, then we are undermining our national security and cutting short the promise of America. Unfortunately, the National Defense Authorization Act sends the message that we are only willing to fulfill half of that promise. 

The White House has also made it clear that they will veto this bill as well as other appropriations bills that reflect a similar approach. Congress is wasting time with this dead-end approach. In the coming months, it is my hope that the House, Senate and President can come together and strike a compromise to remove the budget caps and move forward with a responsible approaching to budgeting.

Today, Congressman Smith became a cosponsor of the Raise the Wage Act introduced by Senator Patty Murray and Ed & Workforce Chairman Bobby Scott.  This legislation would raise the minimum wage nationwide to $12.00 per hour by 2020.  Congressman Smith released the following statement in support of the bill:
 
“As our economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, we need policies that support investing in our workforce to ensure that everyone is sharing in the recovery.  A large part of this is making sure that employees earn a living wage.  This legislation would help do so by increasing the national minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

“Studies have shown that the fall in minimum wage over the last 30 years has led to an increase in inequality between median wage earners and workers at the bottom of the wage ladder. Addressing this issue is central to establishing wage equality for all workers but particularly women, as female employees are 60% more likely to be paid minimum wage than male employees.”
 
Besides increasing the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.00 by the year 2020, this bill would also index the minimum wage to the median wage starting in 2021, and eliminate the tipped minimum wage gradually by raising the cash wage from the current $2.13 per hour to match the regular minimum wage.

Congressman Adam Smith released the following statement on the earthquake in Nepal:
 
“My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in the tragic earthquake in Nepal.   My deepest condolences go out to the Nepalese community in Washington State and around the world.  The United States will continue to work closely with the Nepalese government to provide support as it continues to deal with this crisis.   As a member of the Nepalese Congressional Caucus, I will do all I can in Congress to ensure that Nepal receives the humanitarian support it needs .”