Washington D.C.Yesterday, Congressman Adam Smith sent the following letter to Attorney General Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Nielson, and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar citing concerns with recent practices of detaining applicants for asylum at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, Washington. Today, Smith joined with Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and Reps Jayapal, DelBene, and Heck to bring attention to the disturbing rise in family separations. 

Following the news of the family separations, ahead of the Press Conference, Smith said, “I am deeply disturbed by reports that a number of women who are seeking asylum are being detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac after being separated from their children. Under the law, these families have the right to apply for asylum, and should not be torn apart while the process is taking place. I condemn the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating immigrant families. This policy goes against the very ideals that our country was founded on, and I will continue to fight to keep families together.”

June 8, 2018


The Honorable Jeff Sessions                                The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Attorney General of the United States                 Secretary of Homeland Security

United States Department of Justice                     United States Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20530                                        Washington, DC 20528


The Honorable Alex M. Azar II

Secretary of Health and Human Services

United States Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, DC 20416

Dear Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Nielsen, and Secretary Azar:

I write regarding reports that potentially over 100 women seeking asylum are being detained at the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in SeaTac, Washington. Reports have also indicated that these individuals arrived in Washington state after being separated from their children and transferred from the U.S.-Mexico border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I am extremely concerned that the Administration is violating longstanding asylum law and infringing on the due process of these women, while inflicting lasting harm to their families and children.

It has also come to my attention that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has entered into Inter-Agency Agreements with ICE to detain individuals at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Sheridan, Oregon, the FCI in Phoenix, Arizona, the Federal Satellite Low (FSL) in La Tuna, Texas, and the FCI in Victorville, California, in addition to the FDC in SeaTac. As the Administration prepares to separate more families and hold parents away from their children in federal detention facilities across the country, I request the following information to better understand these new developments in immigration detention protocol:

  • Where are the children of the parents being detained at SeaTac and other prisons across the country?
  • What are the current policies in place for housing and caring for the sudden large number of children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border?
  • What are you doing to ensure parents and children are transferred to locations within close proximity to each other?
  • Since these individuals have the legal right to seek asylum, why are they being held in federal prison while their asylum claims are being processed?
  • Do the detained people have access to legal services? What are you doing to ensure they know their legal rights as asylum seekers?
  • When will the people detained at SeaTac and other federal prisons be released and when will they be reunited with their children?
  • What protocol do you have in place to reunite parents with their children?

In addition to answering these questions, I urge you to immediately halt the terribly inhumane policy of separating children from their parents and work diligently to reunite families. This “zero tolerance policy” goes against basic human dignity.

Thank you for your time and attention to this critical issue, and I look forward to your response.



Adam Smith

Member of Congress


A PDF Version of the letter can be found HERE.