Earthdaughter's Blog

May. 24, 2008 at 12:22pm

ICE Detention Center Plans Expansion

Am I the only one who didn't know?

I had a conversation a few days ago with a consultant in Florida.  She is working on an project to document the impact to the environment (including traffic, etc.) of a planned expansion of the detention center down on E. J St on the TideFlats.  Apparently they are already discussing this with the Council, but it was the first I'd heard.  Personally, I'd like to see this place go from 500 beds to zero rather than up to 1000.  This is all "public knowledge" but I wonder how much of the public is aware of it.

comments [23]  |  posted under Council, detention center, ICE, Tacoma


by Earthdaughter on 5/24/2008 @ 12:33pm
Sorry. Somehow that posted twice. I'm still new at this.

by NineInchNachos on 5/24/2008 @ 1:57pm
Hey I thought Julie Anderson said the Council had nothing to do with this? That this was a federal gig. thanks for the tip E.D. !

by Earthdaughter on 5/24/2008 @ 6:40pm
It's a Federal facility but it still needs to get permits and file impact statements to expand. The impact is not just additional traffic from staff and visitors, but could be disruption to the neighborhood. If it's a target of repeated protests and would tie up police resources, that might be factored in.

by Twisty on 5/24/2008 @ 7:18pm
To answer your question...
From my perspective, public awareness is zero. The place has managed to stay off in my peripheral vision; I barely knew it was even there, let alone did I know it was planning to expand.

1000 beds? That's getting into full-on prison-size territory.

I don't think I like have the federales around. They're creepy.

by jenyum on 5/24/2008 @ 8:12pm
Here's a good, simple explanation of ICE detention by the American Friends Service committee.

The common perception that all of the people detained in these centers are criminals is way off base. Many are there while seeking asylum or because of undocumented status, or something as minor as a misdeameanor or even an infraction that cascaded into a failure to appear and removal.

(Ask me how easy it is to get your license suspended for not completing the @@@@$% deal with the devil ticket payment plans that are horribly mismanaged around here, then drive on that suspended license, then get arrested. Not that it actually got that far in my case, but very nearly could have. There are a thousand ways for poor people to end up in jail simply for being poor, in Pierce County. Some of these things could be solved by something as simple as hiring one more cashier at the court house, or sending out stamped envelopes and bills. Or not sending past-due accounts from bus-accessible downtown out to 96th and Hosmer to an outsourced debt collection agency that doesn't take debit cards. But we'd rather spend the money on jails. And apparently, ICE detention centers.)

Tacoma's facility likes to brag that it is the very best prison camp in the country, somehow I don't think doubling the beds will keep it that way. I would hope that we as a community would decide we don't want to be a party to this, but we need to work out a concrete explanation of its negative impact, based within the framework of existing law. Hopefully some of the council members would be interested in doing some of this footwork.

by Twisty on 5/24/2008 @ 10:08pm
There are a thousand ways for poor people to end up in jail simply for being poor, in Pierce County.
You got that right. Ask any non-custodial father.

But, back on-topic...
It's interesting how our place in society can affect our knowledge and perception of things. Take this prison on the tide flats, for example. I'm native-born; I will never ever have to worry about being sent there, no matter what happens. So, I guess I just flip the page or keep scrolling when I see a news story about the place.

Many of my neighbors, OTOH, are from Hispanic countries or are from families that originated in Hispanic countries. Earlier I bounced this off a couple of the guys who live across the street from me, and I suppose it should be no surprise that they know all about it. They've never been there, and they don't know anybody who's been there -- but if I were them, I too would pay a little closer attention to a jail the government has built just for people like themselves.

by fredo on 5/25/2008 @ 11:23am
There are at least 2 issues being discussed here. One issue is: Should undocumented individuals be detained? The second issue is: Should there be a Tacoma facility for the detention of these detainees either in its present configuration, or perhaps in an expanded configuration?

My feeling is that the detainees are going to be housed somewhere and the location on the tideflats is probably pretty good compared to other possible sites.

The people housed in these facilities are not criminals in the ordinary sense of the word... but they have broken the law. Their current circumstance was entirely forseeable, perhaps even expected, when they came here. I can't see why any legal resident of the US, regardless of ethnic origin, would support undocumented immigration.

by jenyum on 5/25/2008 @ 12:02pm
There's a difference between "supporting undocumented immigration" and supporting the indefinite detention of individuals for minor infractions, without benefit of council.

Is it entirely foreseeable that failing to finish paying off a traffic fine can land you in detention indefinitely while your "home" country won't take you back and your present country has decided to warehouse you? maybe. Is that acceptable to me? No.

Is it foreseeable that the United States will choose to put asylum seekers in prison while they prove that conditions in their original country are so dangerous as to make an indefinite sentence preferable to returning? I guess, right now that's probable foreseeable. Is that something I want my community to be a party to? H*ll no.

by Thorax on 5/25/2008 @ 12:38pm
I work next door to ICE.

There are "500 Beds" but there are more than 500 prisioners there. I've been told by employees (it's not actually run by the feds, it's outsourced) that there are about 1,000 there now, mostly Mexicans.

One can aruge that this is a better location, than say Omak (where there is another, bigger one under construction) or whatever. In the 4 yrs I've worked next to them, I've seen an E. Coli breakout, 3 protests, and armed snipers on the roof daily. Not exactly the happy-fun camp they want you to think. Anything involving Homeland Security or FEMA bears watching.

If anything, I'm torn. One part of me is saying "Not in my city!" but the other part knows that an urban location keeps them visible, no matter how hard they try to hide.

Does anyone want some pictures? I have a couple dozen of the facility I'd be happy to share.

by fredo on 5/25/2008 @ 1:11pm
Jen-What portion of the detainees are asylum seekers and what portion are just here because the US is a favorable place to live and/or work?. I'll bet there are few legitimate asylum seekers. If the detainees need counciling, as you suggest, I'm all in favor of that.

As far as undocumented immigrants driving around without proper ID and insurance: that's not acceptable to me.

There is much to be sad about regarding this situation, however most of the detainees brought their situation on themselves.

by fantum on 7/5/2008 @ 1:44pm
I'm amazed at how little Tacoma really knows about this place.

The Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) is a privately owned and privately operated prison complex. The federal government (DHS/ICE) provides the detainees from all around the country and pays GEO Group (the owners) around 89 to 99 dollars a day.

This is not a federal facility. Think of it as a foster home on steroids.

20% of the daily population are serious felons from around the world. They have done their time in the U.S. prison system (Federal/State/Local) and are waiting for deportation. Many will never leave because their country may not exist (think Somalia), their country doesn't want them back (think Russia, Cuba, China), or they are appealing their deportation order.

Remember that a violation of immigration law is a civil and administrative violation and is NOT a criminal violation. Another 60% have somehow been accused of this administrative violation and await an administative review of their case. This can include asylum seekers.

by fantum on 7/5/2008 @ 1:49pm
The remaining 20% are also in the above category but are released because they are permitted to remain in this country. Unlike other violation of Federal administrative law, in this land of the free, we detain you until you are able to prove you have not broken any procedures.

There have been deaths, large scale food poisoning, sexual assaults, witholding of medical treatment, multiples assaults, contagious disease outbreaks, and mal-treatment of pregnant women to name but a few of the problems and issues with the operators of the facility.

by escaping slave on 7/6/2008 @ 9:33am
Remember that a violation of immigration law is a civil and administrative violation and is NOT a criminal violation.

Fantum, you are correct! Just remember that whenever anyone is called a "criminal." Who is it who gave them that title and what "law" did they break to earn it? As Thoreau pointed out, the only rightful place for a just man to be in an unjust world is prison.

There are numerous problems with this and it only leads to more. More than this building, I fear the hundreds of empty ones in the area that they can use to round us up in...and yes, it will be us one day. It may not be our local police doing it; it could be the UN, it could be our troops under UN order, but in the end it always comes down to rounding up the people.

Do you really think they'll never come for you in your home town? Go on YouTube and watch some clips of the Republican Convention protesting that went on in New York and where all those local people ended up - the FEMA docks, in their own city.

Wasn't it in 1930's Germany when people thought, well, they won't come for me because I'm not Jewish, because I'm not this, because I'm not that? Just because you're "local" doesn't mean they still won't come for you. Read some history.

What's worse, when it's run by government or the people are simply paid by government (or given permission by the government) to do what they want? It's like choosing between Hitler and Stalin; neither one is good.

I notice many people on here don't seem to like the idea of it. Everyone uses their right protected by the First Amendment wonderfully. But does anyone ever stop and think, what about that Second Amendment? What is it there for? To hunt? To do shooting competitions? What is the point of that dang old Second Amendment?

Drum roll keep a tyranical government in check!

Is our government acting tyranical? Maybe it's all in how you choose to see it.

by fredo on 7/6/2008 @ 10:39am
The comparison of US Immigration policy to the Nazi regime is a bit of a stretch for me. OTOH, the feedtacoma blog is as good a place as any to take an unusual position.

The reason these people are in detention is because we would have a hard time finding them if they were not in detention. Makes no difference if their violations are civil or criminal. If they were given a hearing date and told to return for the hearing, most would not show up.

I would bet that if you went almost anywhere in the world and it was discovered that you had overstayed your visa or were unable to furnish any documentation that you belonged there you would wind up in the foreign equivalent of the ICE or worse. I'm unaware of any place that would give you a summons to show up in court in a couple of months and allow you to continue wandering around their country in the meantime.

by fantum on 7/6/2008 @ 7:13pm
Fredo said, "I'm unaware of any place that would give you a summons to show up in court in a couple of months and allow you to continue wandering around their country in the meantime."

This happens in Tacoma every day - along with the rest of the United States. Maybe we should change that as well. You are alleged to have violated a law -criminal or civil - and we lock you up until you prove your innocence.

by fredo on 7/6/2008 @ 7:24pm
Fantum@ You've taken my quote out of context. I was specifically referring to undocumented aliens who have run afoul of the law. The likelihood of a US citizen appearing for his scheduled hearing is probably a lot greater than the likelihood an illegal alien will. The US citizen frequently has property and other important connections in the US. The alien rarely has either. Those individuals who don't want to end up at the ICE can easily avoid it. Don't enter the US!

by fantum on 7/8/2008 @ 5:43am
But Fredo many of these humans do have property and family and ties to the local community. Many have submitted paperwork to ICE for review, requested visa extensions, and tried to comply with our complicated immigration laws. Often times there is a name mismatch. Doesn't matter - off to detention with you. I've been to the removal hearings at the Camp and met with many a detainee.
I've seen US Citizens detained in error and seen at least one that was deported.
Each case is unique and it is only the uniformed that lump all of these persons, human beings, citizens of some country under the banner "illegal alien".

by fredo on 7/8/2008 @ 7:42am
The ICE is an attempt by the government to do something about the immigration problem. Is it perfect? Certainly not. Could improvements be made? Probably. Each case is undeniably unique but surely you understand that we cannot have a unique institution in place for each detainee. The problem of dealing with undocumented aliens is enormous in magnitude and the ICE, it seems to me, is just a way of bringing the economies of scale to address it.

People entering the US should review all their visas and citizenship papers to make sure they're up to snuff. This would go a long way towards avoiding the problems they may encounter at the ICE.

by escaping slave on 7/8/2008 @ 12:40pm
"Each case is undeniably unique but surely you understand that we cannot have a unique institution in place for each detainee."

But it's not a unique institution. It's called due process, which our government doesn't have the best record of always following. Let's look at the FLDS down in Texas as the latest example of government's idea of due process.

"People entering the US should review all their visas and citizenship papers to make sure they're up to snuff."

But who says they don't have their visas and paperwork up to snuff? The government, who's great at losing other peoples' paperwork and not believing anyone. So why listen to them? No one ever listens to the people who are being held because they're least that's how we're trained to see them, when really they're innocent. They need to be proven guilty. Being charged by a government, or anyone, and imprisoned does not make one guilty of anything.

by fredo on 7/8/2008 @ 1:11pm
Try entering any European country with improper documentation. You immediately go to a holding area and are returned to the US. You will also pay for your return ticket. It's your responsibility to have the proper travel documents before leaving for your destination. Its your responsibility to hold onto the documents and make sure they're current and correct. Visit the a US embassy before anything expires.

I stipulated in a previous posting that errors are probably made on occasion at ICE. That doesn't invalidate the mission.

by fantum on 7/8/2008 @ 3:13pm
Oh yes...and then change the laws on them. Place them in a situation of double jeopardy. We have broadened the offenses which make someone subject to detention and removal with no statute of limitation.
But of course this isn;t double jeopardy because immigration law isn't criminal law. Someone even a green card holder, that committed a crime or pleaded to a crime 20 years ago, can be removed.

We won't fix immigration law here in Tacoma.
But we should make damn sure that a company doing the taxpayers business follows all the rules in line with their contract - and they have not.

This failure - on our part - places the people they hold in jeopardy - every single minute of every single day.

by pongo on 8/13/2008 @ 1:37am
shut down the detention center! no human is illegal!

by fredo on 8/13/2008 @ 1:53pm
The I.C.E. is probably doing as good as they can under their current contract. There will be an I.C.E. here or somewhere else as long as people are sneaking into our country. Why shouldn't we have the I.C.E. employment opportunities here?

Anyone who thinks they can do a better job should organize a business plan, attract some capital, and submit a bid when the government solicits proposals.


I'm trying to find the folks who worked on this garden site in the past. I've met some at various events, but now I can't find them! Or the owner of the property.

As I understood it, the issue that stopped the garden was a broken water pipe. I have a solution to that. What I'd need to make this happen would be permission to do it from the owner, a few people who could help dig some trenches, and someone to agree to take responsibility for the water account. (That wouldn't mean they would have to pay it themselves, necessarily, but TPU will need someone to open the account, probably the owner of the property.)

I have lots of seeds, too, that I'd like to see planted this season since they were generously donated. I am also willing to work some on the garden, but I'm still in the process of purchasing the property on S J St. so won't have a lot of time.

So if you want to be part of this lovely garden site again, or for the first time, and can put me in touch with the owner, etc., please email me at

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