WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), along with the Democratic Washington delegation, sent Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tae Johnson a letter regarding the health and safety of detained people and staff at the Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) following repeated COVID-19 outbreaks at the facility.
“We have received multiple reports concerning the conditions of confinement and a consistent lack of, or refusal to adhere to, evidence-based health mitigation measures in the facility as well as during the process of transferring individuals to the facility. These actions have endangered detained migrants and staff in the ICE detention center, leading to the current major outbreak and continued spread of COVID-19 at the facility,” the members said.

Since early June, there have been more than 300 COVID-19 cases at the NWIPC.  Unfortunately, this is not the first instance that unsafe conditions have been reported at the NWIPC, as years of personal interviews with individuals and reports have uncovered inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, unsanitary living conditions, and the exploitation of labor.
“We understand that state and local public health officials have made requests and suggestions to mitigate against outbreaks within the NWIPC and improve coordination during the release of individuals from NWIPC. We also strongly encourage DHS to exercise its discretion to utilize alternatives to detention and prioritize the release of individuals, especially vulnerable individuals and those at higher medical risk, who do not need to be in detention,” the members continued. “We are gravely concerned about the health and safety of detained people and staff at the Northwest ICE Processing Center. The lack of adequate safety protocols during transfer, unsafe and cramped living conditions, and failure to adhere to recommendations on masking has fed into the growing COVID-19 outbreak and continued spread within the facility.  
“The federal government has an obligation to protect the health, safety, and rights of detained individuals and the wellbeing of the staff, families, and the surrounding communities of ICE detention centers. We urge DHS and ICE to take steps to review and improve current practices in transferring and maintaining the health and safety of people within detention at the NWIPC,” the members concluded.

A full copy of the letter can be found here.