We have a new Executive Director

The Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC) has hired a new Executive Director.  Sally Hudson Tellekson follows in the footsteps of our founders April Borbon and Martitha May. She began work this week, leading the agency’s efforts to address the growing challenges faced by local immigrants in the current political landscape.Sally Tellekson

“The need for legal services has skyrocketed since the 2016 election,” says Tellekson.  “We currently have over 350 open legal cases and many in removal proceedings, some of whom are children.  Hundreds of local immigrants are being held in the Tacoma Detention Center. We’re training new legal assistants and expanding as quickly as possible.”

Community funding has enabled KIAC to expand its resources, she says.  “We’ve seen an outpouring of support from Kitsap County residents and organizations who want their immigrant neighbors to get the support they need.  We’ve raised enough money to step up our legal defense efforts and will be looking for more ways to fund these costs because the truth is, many immigrants are living in fear.”

Part of Tellekson’s new role will be overseeing the agency’s move to larger Bremerton offices early next year, consolidating family and legal services.  Founded in 2004, KIAC has stepped up its services in the past year, serving an estimated 17,000 immigrants in Kitsap County alone.

In addition to legal services, KIAC’s family services offer citizenship workshops, medical and dental clinics and language learning resources. KIAC clients come from over 35 countries of origin and its programs are offered in Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties.

“Many of our immigrant neighbors are worried about issues like DACA and deportation.  They need legal representation in order to have any hope of finding justice in our courts,” says Tellekson.  ”Their families also need community health resources they can’t always afford.  My job is to make sure they find this support in the face of rising need.”

Tellekson practiced law in Chicago and brings over 30 years of experience in non-profit management, fundraising and consulting to her new position. She is active in social justice and serves on several community non-profit boards.

Representatives Jayapal and Smith Call for Reforms to Deeply Flawed Immigration Detention System

October 16, 2017
Press Release

SEATTLE – Today, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) convened local stakeholders in support of the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to dramatically reform the injustices in our current immigration detention system. At present, the detention system is driven by private, for-profit corporations that benefit from increased detention efforts, like the GEO Group which operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. This bill moves to end the use of private facilities; repeal mandatory detention; and restore due process, oversight, accountability and transparency to the immigration detention system.

“We must fix the injustices in our broken immigration detention system,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “As the Trump administration continues to push a misguided and dangerous immigration agenda, we need to ensure fair treatment and due process for immigrants and refugees faced with detention. This legislation will address some of the worst failings of our immigration policy, and restore integrity and humanity to immigration proceedings.”

“The high moral cost of our inhumane immigration detention system is reprehensible. Large, private corporations operating detention centers are profiting off the suffering of men, women and children. We need an overhaul,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “It’s clear that the Trump administration is dismantling the few protections in place for detained immigrants even as he ramps up enforcement against parents and vulnerable populations. This bill addresses the most egregious problems with our immigration detention system. It’s Congress’ responsibility to step up and pass this bill.”

In addition to repealing mandatory detention, a policy that often results in arbitrary and indefinite detention, the legislation creates a meaningful inspection process at detention facilities to ensure they meet the government’s own standards. The bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish legally enforceable civil detention standards in line with those adopted by the American Bar Association. With disturbing track records of abuse and neglect,  DHS has a responsibility to ensure that facilities are held accountable for the humane treatment of those awaiting immigration proceedings.

Individuals held in our immigration detention system are subject to civil law, but are often held in conditions identical to prisons. In many cases, detained people are simply awaiting their day in court. To correct the persistent failures of due process, the legislation requires the government to show probable cause to detain people, and implements a special rule for primary caregivers and vulnerable populations, including pregnant women and people with serious medical and mental health issues.

“The immigrant detention and prison industrial complex breaks down the mental, emotional, and psychosocial development of our communities in various ways. I saw this firsthand when my family member was detained. I believe the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act provides transformative provisions that we have been working toward, to move the immigrant rights movement forward,” said Yvette Maganya, a OneAmerica youth leader and the niece of a survivor of the Northwest Detention Center. “I’ve seen the toll detention conditions have in our community. Our communities are being jailed in inhumane conditions with no accountability. Often they are jailed not because of what they did, but to fulfill cruel, arbitrary quotas. It is wrong to jail immigrants indefinitely with no accountability or oversight. This is why we need the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act.”

“We are grateful for the leadership of Representatives Smith and Jayapal in ensuring that the rights and dignity of all peoples are respected.  NWIRP supports the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2017 that they have introduced and see it as a critical step toward making our immigration detention system more humane and more consistent with fundamental American values,” said Jorge L. Barón of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

“The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is a crucial piece of legislation that introduces a wave of accountability that we desperately need. This officially puts the federal government on notice that we will no longer tolerate the rampant disregard for human life,” said Victoria Mena of Colectiva Legal del Pueblo.

“Today, we’re facing an extremist expansion of our immigration detention system, which makes the Dignity for Detained Immigrants bill even more imperative. We have continually seen the ways in which conditions in the detention center and the traumatic experience of being detained deters people from fighting their cases. We stand in strong support of this important piece of legislation that sets a new, humane vision to reform our flawed immigration detention system,” said Roxana Norouzi of immigrant rights organization OneAmerica.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is cosponsored by 60 members of Congress: John Conyers Jr. (MI-13), John Lewis (GA-5), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Jose Serrano (NY-15), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-4), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Bobby Rush (IL-1), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Elijah E. Cummings (MD-7), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Betty McCollum (MN-4), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-4), André Carson (IN-7), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Jared Polis (CO-2), Mike Quigley (IL-5), Judy Chu (CA-27), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Bill Foster (IL-11), David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Suzan DelBene (WA-1), Donald M. Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-4), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Mark Takano (CA-41), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-4), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34).

The legislation is also supported by 52 civil society organizations: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, Center for Community Change, The Center for Victims of Torture, Church Council of Greater Seattle, Church World Service, Colectiva Legal del Pueblo, Columbia Legal Services, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Democracy for America, Detention Watch Network, Entre Hermanos, FIRM, Grassroots Leadership, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Indivisible Vashon, Just Detention International, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Make the Road CT, Make the Road New York, Make the Road NJ, MoveOn.org Civic Action, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Center for Transgender Equality, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, Our Revolution, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Southern Poverty Law Center, Tacoma Migrant Justice, Tahirih Justice Center, United We Dream, Wallingford Indivisible, Washington Community Action Network, Washington Defender Association, The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Women’s Refugee Commission, 21 Progress, Asian Counseling and Referral Service.

Take the profit out of immigration jails, say WA congress members

A detainee in solitary at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER

Immigration detention is a booming business in the U.S., mostly run by private, for-profit contractors. A new bill in Congress aims to phase out these private facilities, including the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

“One thing I am 100 percent confident of is that there is a cheaper, more humane way to treat the undocumented population in our country,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington).

On Tuesday, Smith and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) plan to introduce legislation that calls for an overhaul of the immigration detention system.

Currently, 90 percent of federal detention is outsourced to private contractors or local jails and the regulations vary from place to place.

“There’s no accountability,” Jayapal said. “There’s no transparency. And people are literally making a profit off of people being put into detention. I think it’s important for the public to understand that it’s costing them a lot of money when there are a lot of alternatives.”

The legislation calls for the Department of Homeland Security to take over ownership and operation of all detention facilities within three years.

The bill, called the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, would also create higher standards at detention centers – standards for medical care, legal services, and basic living conditions, among other things.

A recent series of detainee hunger strikes have called attention to these issues at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma and at other immigration jails around the country.

More than 350,000 people were held in detention last year, and the 2018 federal budget projects a 70 percent increase.

“The bottom line concern is that detention facilities are not regulated by the federal government in the same way that federal prisons are,” Smith said.

Former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelley defended the standards while testifying to Congress in May.

“ICE detention standards are well beyond the standards that even the Federal Bureau of Prisons has in terms of prisoner….housing and care,” Kelly said.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson declined to comment on pending legislation, but information on the agency’s website describes an ongoing rollout of new standards to all of its facilities. However, some facilities are still using standards that have not been updated since 2000.

In 2016, a Homeland Security advisory subcommittee reviewed the use of private immigration detention facilities and evaluated whether this practice should be eliminated. The report compared private facilities to those run by ICE and found private facilities are cheaper to run and necessary to meet capacity demands. However, the committee ultimately recommended a shift away from these for-profit jails.

According to the report, the average cost of a day in an ICE-run facility is $184.35 per person versus $144.23 in a privately-contracted detention facility.

Yet Jayapal said the proposed legislation would ultimately lead to cost savings, since it carves out limits on who can be detained and for how long. For example, the bill would create a category of “vulnerable persons,” including pregnant women and primary caregivers, who could qualify for alternative community supervision programs instead of detention.

Smith said he’s not naïve. He knows how Congress works. And he knows it’s a longshot to even get a hearing on this bill, given the Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

“It’s unlikely, but we’re going to put it in their face,” Smith said. “We’re going to keep pushing this issue because we have people here in this country who are being treated inhumanely.”

Serving our sisters and brothers in the immigrant community

Translate »