SMASH ICE NORTHWEST DETENTION CENTER -- DOCUSHORT
January 21, 2008
The Northwest Detention Center is a private immigration prison facility located on the tide flats of Tacoma, Washington. The detention center opened in 2004 under a contract with The US Department of Homeland Security, Though owners have changed over time, the facility is now owned by the GEO Group Which operates prison facilities in Australia, The UK, South Africa, the US and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the largest and primary investigative branch of Homeland Security, expanded the facility's housing capacity 1,000 detainees, making it the largest detention center owned by GEO Group on the West Coast of the United States.
In 2003 the ICE launched Operation End Game, the largest police operation in US history, to remove all undocumented migrants from the US by the year 2012. The project's predecessor, Operation Wetback in 1954, removed 1.2 million Mexicans from the American Southwest.
ICE does not need warrants to make arrests or to conduct raids. Since July 2007, raids have increased the number of detained migrants from 18,000 to 26,000 nationwide. Homeland Security relocates 700 detainees a week in the United States.
Migrants in the facility are mostly from the Northwest regions of Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Washington. Due to the increase in raids they've recently come from places like New York, Puerto Rico and Guam. ICE agents move the detainees to the facility under the cover of night.
Nationwide tens of thousands of children every year lose a parent to deportation. 85% percent of those detained don't have legal counsel, since they do not have a right to due process or protections against unlawful searches or seizures.
After raids in the Northwest rounded up hundreds of migrant workers at a time from places like Auburn, Washington and Portland, Oregon, a protest in solidarity with the No Borders Camp actions in Arizona took place at the same time in Tacoma.
The march was focused not at the facility itself, which is tucked away unnoticed amongst shipping terminals and superfund sites, but at the Wells Fargo Bank building, which invests in the GEO Group's operations worldwide. The march was labeled a homeland security threat, and policed heavily. Police with cameras and less than lethal weapons intimidated protesters, and suggested that local landlords evict the protest organizers from their homes. The march occupied an intersection for more than ten minutes, circling from crosswalk to crosswalk until police used force. One woman taking pictures was arrested for spitting on the ground, and then intimidated by police and bystanders. Another was arrested for disarming an officer, though that charge was later dropped. In front of the Wells Fargo Bank, another arrest occurred.
As raids at jobs sites increased over the last years, members in the community seemed to have noticed little. As purges in accordance with End Game increase, the Tacoma activist community is attempting to increase awareness about the facility's proximity and what it stands for.