Legal advocates helping detained immigrants in Washington State will get a $200,000 boost thanks to emergency funding from Governor Jay Inslee.
The state will allocate the emergency dollars to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), which provides legal help to immigrants detained in Washington. NWIRP is facing huge demand for its services as the Trump Administration enforces its “zero tolerance” policy for border crossing. More than 100 women detained under the policy were recently transferred to a federal prison near Seattle.
In an announcement about the funding, Inslee cited the separation of migrant children from their parents. He called it the latest effort by the current administration to terrorize immigrant families and people seeking asylum or refuge.
“Everyone is entitled to a fair and due process, and this funding will help make sure Washington is doing everything it can to protect that system of justice for all,” Inslee said.
According to Matt Adams, legal director at NWIRP, the new funding will be used to support both immigrants in deportation proceedings and their children.
“We’re in desperate need of resources especially with what’s occurring now with family separation,” Adams said. “The moms we’ve been talking to—it’s hard for them to even focus on their immigration case when their biggest desperation is to get their child back.”
The NWIRP regularly assists detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. The center holds more than 1,500 people, but only 10 to 15 percent of them receive legal representation, according to Adams. Those numbers include those who receive representation from NWIRP but also detainees who are able to afford private representation.
Recently, the need has grown even more acute. There are now 177 women seeking asylum in the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. The women were transferred to the detention center by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month, and NWIRP has been working to connect them with legal help since.
Nearly half of the women in SeaTac were separated from their children when they were waiting at the border to seek asylum, according to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. They weren’t told what was happening until their children were taken away and they never got a chance to say goodbye.
“A lot of the mothers want to give up on their asylum claim if that would help get the government to give their child back to them,” Adams said. “There’s tremendous stress and fear.”
There is little hope for reunion. As it stands, there isn't a clear plan to reunite parents and separated children. It's on the immigrants, their advocates, and their attorneys to navigate a system pitted against them of various federal agencies and detention centers across the country to reunite children with their parents before they're adopted.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has gotten involved, too. The Office of the Attorney General is requesting any information from Washington residents who are "currently housing or will soon be housing a child who has been separated from his or her parents pursuant to this policy." Anyone with relevant information should call the Attorney General at 1-844-323-3864.
Today, President Trump signed an executive order to end family separations. However, the order will not end the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy.
Regardless of the executive order, Adams said, “what is clear is that it still requires asylum seekers and families to be locked up. The need for help rises, the statistics and the common experience makes it clear that people who are unrepresented have a huge hurdle to prosecute their claim to apply for asylum.”