Worried about Trump policies, Tacoma won't let immigrant jail grow | KUOW News and Information

Worried about Trump policies, Tacoma won't let immigrant jail grow

Mar 9, 2017

Tacoma officials have taken a step that effectively stops Washington's immigrant detention center from growing.

The Tacoma City Council passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday that targets private and public prisons. The measure temporarily bans expansion of private prisons and limits where public correctional facilities can be located within Tacoma.

It applies to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which is operated by a private group on behalf of the U.S. government.

Councilmember Marty Campbell sponsored the measure. He says President Trump's executive orders on immigration have led federal agencies to start adding prison beds to other facilities in the U.S.

Campbell: "There is a real possibility that they could be looking to expand the facility up here."

The Northwest Detention Center holds 1,500 beds for immigrants, some of whom face deportation. (That is an expansion over 2008, when it held 1,000 beds.) The company that runs the facility has not announced plans to expand.

Even so, Campbell says Tacoma needs time to understand whether it could host more detainees, or whether it wants to.

Campbell: "What we need to do is have a conversation on why people are ending up there in the first place, and comprehensive immigration reform, not in the way that we're going about it right now nationally."

The measure stops prison expansions in Tacoma for six months. In the meantime, a city planning commission will review whether to make the rule permanent. A public hearing is scheduled for April 18.

In recent weeks, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and city council members have repeatedly expressed disapproval at having the federal detention center in Tacoma.