Congressman Smith Introduces Legislation To Improve Standards, Conditions At Detention Centers

Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act, legislation that aims to improve standards and living conditions in detention centers across the country.  This comes after detainees in Tacoma went on a nearly two-month hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) over access to nutritious food, isolation practices, treatment by guards, and other living conditions. 

“After visiting the NWDC to speak with detainees on hunger strike, it was clear that more enforceable standards were necessary,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “Many detainees are fathers and mothers who have committed no crime, yet are being held in unacceptable conditions for a prolonged period of time.  This legislation is focused on improving living conditions for detainees and increasing oversight and  transparency of the treatment of detainees.”

Currently, all standards at detention facilities are created and enforced by ICE.  Smith’s legislation would change federal law to ensure that detention center standards are federally regulated and created by a rulemaking committee that includes stakeholders like organizations that advocate for undocumented immigrants, local governments, medical experts, and more. 

In a statement,  #Not1More said  “We applaud Rep. Adam Smith’s response to the peaceful protest by immigrant detainees in Tacoma, WA calling for better treatment at the privately-run facility. His office reached out immediately to us and he visited three of the hunger strikers in late March. During his visit he not only found their demands to be valid, he also promised to introduce legislation to address the demands and the retaliation the hunger strikers faced. Today he delivered on his promise. As part of the campaign to stop deportations and as representatives of those on hunger strike, we thank him for his leadership and courage in creating solutions to these issues.”

The legislation also would require unannounced audits and encourage the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider alternatives to detention (ATDs) that provide a more humane alternative for individuals in ICE’s custody.  The bill has 7 original cosponsors: Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Bill Foster (D-IL), Rick Larsen (D-WA).

Link to full bill text

Link to section by section of bill