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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Immigration Detention Worse than Prison

Chris Thomas,
Public News Service - OR

Seattle, WA - People in Oregon who are accused of immigration violations most often end up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. A new report alleges serious human rights violations at that facility.

Seattle University law students who interviewed detainees and worked to confirm their stories heard about a wide range of problems, from overcrowding and lack of food and medical attention, to physical and verbal abuse by guards and federal marshals.

Pramila Jayapal, founder and executive director of the human rights group One America, says most people assume detention centers operate under the same rules as jails or prisons, but that isn't the case.

"The issue here is that with immigrant detention, which is currently the most rapidly growing form of incarceration in the United States, there are absolutely no standards governing that kind of detention."

The Center in Tacoma holds about a thousand detainees. In recent months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up deportations there.

Jayapal says One America will take the Seattle U report to the Washington Congressional delegation. The organization has also given a copy to ICE officials, who have not yet responded.

Jayapal points out the Center was designed for temporary stays, but some people have been held there for four years. She warns the report contains some disturbing descriptions of strip searches and other experiences.

"We hope that by putting these details down on paper in a way that is legitimate will not only help educate the general public about these abuses, but will also help in our efforts to call for Congressional oversight."

The full report is available online at

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