Tag Archives: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Spokane decides to outlaw immigration detention by police

illegal immigration

From NBC News: The city of Spokane has agreed to change its policies to make clear that police officers will not question or detain people to enforce federal immigration laws. That’s part of a final settlement the city reached Tuesday in federal court with the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

The case stems from a 2014 traffic accident when the vehicle of Gabriel Gomez was struck by a minivan that failed to yield the right of way.  A Spokane police officer responded and contacted the U.S. Border Patrol to ask whether the agency had any interest in Gomez.

The officer issued a ticket to the other driver and then let that driver leave the scene. However, the officer detained Gomez until the Border Patrol arrived and took him into custody.

“I have lived in this community for many years, and to suddenly have the police turn against me after being a victim in the accident really turned my life upside down,” Gomez said in a press release. “I want to be able to trust the police.”

City officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.  Spokane is Washington’s second-largest city with about 210,000 residents.

Gomez was eventually transferred by immigration officials to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he remained until he posted bond. Gomez is seeking legal status to remain in this country, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit contended the officer unlawfully detained Gomez for purposes of investigating his immigration status and prolonged his detention to assist federal officers. The lawsuit also alleged that city policies unlawfully authorized officers to take such actions.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to modify its policies to clarify that police officers “shall not contact, question, delay, detain or arrest an individual because s/he is suspected of violating immigration laws,” the settlement said.

ACLU Washington issued this statement on their web site:

“This is an important step towards ensuring that all community members receive equal treatment from police officials,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). “The changed policies will help the City to move forward in working to serve all the community members, regardless of their perceived immigration status.”

“We’re pleased that the City has recognized the need to change its policies to prevent such unfair treatment of immigrants in the future,” said Enoka Herat, ACLU of Washington Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel.

DCG

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Tacoma should spend $440,000 a year to defend residents facing deportation, task force says

amanda dias ups photo

Amanda Diaz: Wants to spend taxpayer dollars on illegal aliens/Photo from University of Puget Sound website

How about no.

From Seattle Times (by Candice Ruud): A task force created to focus on the needs of immigrants and refugees (aka illegal aliens) in Tacoma has recommended the City Council spend $440,000 per year to establish a legal-defense fund for Tacoma residents detained at the Northwest Detention Center.

The money would pay for two attorneys and two paralegals who would represent people facing deportation, said Amanda Diaz, a member of the task force and student president at the University of Puget Sound. Another option would be to spend half that money for one lawyer and paralegal to provide some measure of legal representation to detained people, Diaz said.

The recommendation comes seven months after the task force was created and at a time of heightened awareness over federal immigration policy. Stepped-up deportation efforts that have followed President Donald Trump’s inauguration have created emotional and financial strain for many Tacoma families, she said.

Unlike in criminal cases where defendants are represented by a publicly funded attorney if they can’t afford one, people facing deportation are not guaranteed a lawyer, according to the American Immigration Council. This year, the city of Seattle committed $1 million to paying for legal defense for immigrants and refugees, and officials there said they would seek ways to continue that funding in the future.

Members of a Tacoma City Council committee who received the task force’s recommendation this month were receptive to the idea but not ready to implement it. They requested more information from the task force and city staff about how the money would be spent.

“This is coming to us a little less fleshed out than we normally have policies coming to us. Normally we have a lot more of these questions answered,” Councilman Marty Campbell said. “I think we should do this, but first let’s explore it and figure out how.”

An attorney for the Tacoma office of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project told members of the council’s Community Vitality and Safety Committee that the need for legal representation for detainees at the Northwest Detention Center is pressing.

Having access to a lawyer throughout the legal process would improve their chances of not being deported and keep their families intact, attorney Tim Warden-Hertz said.

Each year, 50 to 100 Tacoma residents are detained at the Northwest Detention Center, he said.

“Enforcement has changed — enforcement year over year has increased 40 percent over last year for people in the Northwest, for people in our area,” Warden-Hertz said. “That’s what has changed and that’s what this administration has meant for families in Tacoma — it’s meant more families being torn apart. That’s why I think this feels so important right now.”

Diaz said there are other downsides to increased deportation efforts.

“There has been a decrease in reporting crimes by immigrants for fear of (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids. There have been parents scared to drop off their kids at school for fear of ICE involvement in government buildings,” she said. “Various members of the task force have identified families left homeless because the main breadwinner is being detained at the Northwest Detention Center. Children are entering the foster-care system because one or both of their parents are detained.”

Most members of the Vitality and Safety committee agreed there is a need for a legal-defense fund for immigrants, but they also said there are needs for other corners of Tacoma’s population, such as those facing eviction proceedings.

Task-force members also recommended that the city create a standing commission on immigration and refugee affairs that would deal with issues unique to that community.

They also asked the City Council to take immediate steps to provide equitable language access for a variety of languages across all city services. Access to language and translation services was identified last year as a major barrier for Latino residents working to integrate into Tacoma life, council members pointed out.

DCG