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Weekend Rally, "Tribunal" at NW Immigration Detention Center

Advocates of immigrants' rights are holding a tribunal Sunday outside the Northwest Detention Center to put the deportation process on trial. (Seattle Globalist/Flickr)
Advocates of immigrants' rights are holding a tribunal Sunday outside the Northwest Detention Center to put the deportation process on trial. (Seattle Globalist/Flickr)
February 24, 2017

TACOMA, Wash. — Advocates for immigrant rights are holding a tribunal outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on Sunday to put the United States' deportation system on trial.

This is the second year they will gather outside one of the largest detention centers in the country to hear personal stories about the deportation process and the conditions for people imprisoned in detention centers. Community organizer Maru Mora Villalpando called living conditions in the Northwest Center "inhumane," and said the guards are not properly trained.

"The stress levels are really high, because we hear reports that the number of people in the detention center has skyrocketed," Villalpando said. "They're overcrowded."

Poor conditions at the detention center have prompted hunger strikes by detainees and strikes by workers at the facility. The Northwest Detention Center is privately owned by GEO Group, and according to Villalpando, the center generates nearly $57 million annually.

In 2016, the U.S. Justice Department called for a reduction in the number private prisons, but the order didn't apply to detention centers.

Villalpando said the agencies involved in deportation have built a large infrastructure that was passed from the Obama administration to the Trump administration. This week, President Trump moved to ramp up deportations across the country. Villalpando said that includes expedited deportations in cases where immigrants may never even see a judge.

"If we cannot prove to the officer that is detaining us that we've been in the country for more than two years,” she said, "then we won't have a chance to talk to a judge and plead for our case, and present the reasons why we should remain in the country, and then look for some kind of relief for us to be with our families here in the U.S."

The Department of Homeland Security has said there are between 31,000 and 34,000 people in detention centers on any given day across the country.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA