This Tuesday, April 25th, Tacoma City Council will meet to discuss "correctional facilities" --including the Northwest Detention Center -- and whether to limit their expansion. We call on the Mayor, City Council, and Finance Manager of Tacoma, Washington to revoke GEO Group’s business license for the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) due to the health and safety violations this for-profit immigration prison poses. Until the NWDC is closed, Tacoma City Council must also extend its emergency ordinance to limit any potential expansion of the facility, and ensure basic testing of water, soil and air conditions.
Why is this important?
During the past two weeks, immigrants detained at the Northwest Detention Center went on hunger strike, putting their lives and health on the line to protest the NWDC’s terrible conditions. Located on a hyper-contaminated superfund site, the NWDC is the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast, caging over 1500 immigrants who are facing civil deportation proceedings. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracts with the GEO Group, a multinational private prison corporations, to run the facility. We call on City of Tacoma leadership to take the following steps to protect immigrants and their communities from the terrible harms the NWDC creates.
1) The city Director of Finance, Andy Cherullo, must revoke business licenses that violate any local, state or federal law relating to public health or safety. The 2014 and 2017 hunger strikes have raised grave questions about detention conditions in terms of: quantity and quality of food provided; basic hygiene provisions for bathing and laundry for clothing; quality of health care; and abysmal working conditions for $1 per day wages. Given these persistent and ongoing issues, it is urgent that the City of Tacoma revoke GEO’s license to operate a business that, by its very nature, violates human health and safety.
2) We urge City Council to make emergency Ordinance No. 28417 permanent, removing correctional facilities as permitted use in M-2 and PMI districts in the Commencement Bay/Tideflats Superfund Site. Correctional and detention facilities house people against their will. As residential sites they do not belong in heavy industrial areas with associated pollution.
3) GEO Group’s private operation of the Northwest Detention Center means that it can currently refuse state public health agencies' request to ensure that the NWDC is safe enough for people to live there. We believe that the site must be shut down. Until that happens, the City of Tacoma should change its laws to ensure basic testing of water, soil and air conditions are not damaging the people forced to live there.
How it will be delivered
We will deliver the petition to Tacoma City Council at their public hearing on Tuesday, April 25th to show them how many people care about those people detained at the NWDC!