Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who represents Seattle in the U.S. House, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), are filing a bill that would stop the construction of immigration detention facilities and increase federal oversight of these facilities, USA Today reports.
Harris criticized the increasing expansion of immigration facilities, putting more and more immigrants at risk of unsafe and abusive conditions. The number of immigration beds in the country rose from 7,000 in to almost 40,000 in 2018. As of 2015, immigration prisons make up 62 percent of private prisons in the U.S.
“Private prison companies are driven by the need to maximize their bottom line, which creates incentive to cut corners,” according to Think Progress.
“It is unconscionable to subject detainees to inhumane conditions that include cases of unchecked sexual abuse, outright medical negligence, lack of access to counsel, and in some cases, even death,” Harris said in a statement. “It’s time to end the expansion of these facilities.”
The federal government plans to continue expanding these facilities, with Department of Homeland Security planning new immigration prisons in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Minn., Salt Lake City and south Texas, according to USA Today. DHS requested $2.7 billion in the 2019 budget to build more space to detain immigrants.
Locally, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, a private immigration prison operated on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is the fourth largest ICE facility in the country.
In 2014, between 750 and 1,200 prisoners at the Northwest Detention Center held a hunger strike to protest conditions in the facility.
In a statement Jayapal said: “Our bill demands a higher accountability of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and a stop to detention expansion because our nation doesn’t need more violence and further militarization — what we need is comprehensive and humane reform and real accountability.”