Parents detained in Washington state after being separated from their children at the southern border may now be moved to facilities in Texas, where they will be reunited with their kids but remain locked up.
Detainees at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac and the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma say Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have told them they will soon be transferred to Texas and detained with their children, according to Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. NWIRP provides legal representation to immigrants and has been working with asylum seekers detained in Washington.
Last month, as the Trump Administration ramped up its "zero-tolerance" policy and separated parents from their children at the border, the federal government transferred 206 detainees from the border to the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, a federal prison. Some detainees have since been transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, a private immigration prison in Tacoma.
NWIRP lawyers say all 206 are seeking asylum and at least 55 are parents who were separated from their children. About 10 of those 55 parents have been released on bond in recent days, Adams said. But, as one mother's case shows, freedom from detention doesn't necessarily provide any clarity on when parents will see their children again.
Now, those who remain in detention may be transferred instead of released.
"On the one hand, the thing that is most important is to be reunited with their kids, no matter what it takes," Adams says. "But of course they don’t want to be locked up. The fact that they might be sent yet again across the country to some other place is discouraging."
Adams says detainees have heard the move will happen by July 24, but lawyers have received no clear plans from ICE.
ICE did not respond to a request for confirmation that the detainees in Washington will be transferred to family detention. But the plan would align with the Trump administration's deadline to reunite families.
A court order gives the administration until July 26 to reunite the more than 2,000 children it separated from families at the border.
This week, the administration missed the initial deadline for reuniting children younger than 5, then said on Thursday it had reunited about half of the youngest children. The administration said it would not reunite the rest of the children younger than 5 because of parents' criminal history or other issues. (Meanwhile, as the Trump administration begins to reunite families, some children do not recognize their mothers.)
Now, the administration has two weeks to finish the process.
The attorney representing the federal government has said authorities may give parents the choice to either be detained with their children but give up their right to be released after 20 days or release their children into federal government custody, the Texas Tribune reports.
Both have been detaining immigrant families since the Obama administration. The facility in Karnes is run by GEO Group, the private prison company that runs the detention center in Tacoma. In the past, advocates have raised concerns about the conditions inside the family detention facilities, including water access in Dilley.