Urge our senators to end the bed quota for migrant detention

Join the collaborative effort of non-profit organizations in WA State by signing on to this letter asking Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray to amend the bed mandate for migrant detention off the appropriations bill. 

Sign this letter by Wednesday, September 2nd, by end of the work day.

Dear Senator Cantwell

We are writing to encourage you to take initiative to end the immigrant detention bed quota in the current appropriations bill by introducing an amendment to that effect in the upcoming continuing resolution.

As organizations working with immigrant communities, we know the disastrous effects of immigrant detention for families and communities in WA State and across the country. There are over 1,400 people detained right now at the privately run Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA, the fourth biggest immigration detention center in the country. We strongly believe that the practice of administrative detention of immigrants, legal permanent residents, and asylum seekers young and old, goes against basic conventions of human rights and the fundamental values of our country. Mandatory and indefinite detention is arguably against the constitution, and serves the interest of the for-profit corporations contracting with the U.S. government at the expense of immigrant’s health and human dignity. 

While administrative detention is ineffective and inhumane, it has been further entrenched and expanded as the result of a detention bed quota written into the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill for FY 2010, and wrongly renewed year after year. The specific language states that “funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds.” Because some members of Congress interpret the language to require ICE to maintain and fill 34,000 beds daily, it has become known as the detention bed “quota.” The number itself is completely arbitrary, and the concept of a legislatively mandated detention quota is an aberration among law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the detention bed quota wastes taxpayer dollars. The annual budget for immigration detention has swelled since the introduction of the quota to over $2 billion dollars each year. 

While efforts to date in the House of Representatives have been unsuccessful at removing the bed quota from subsequent appropriations bills, momentum is building.  Members of Washington’s congressional delegation, including Representative Adam Smith, have actively advocated for an end to this quota.  [When did this happen?], a simple amendment to strike the quota language received support from 190 members, including eight Republicans, when it last received a floor vote. Still, the quota remains intact, and continues to push our immigration enforcement system into overdrive. 

As Washington-based organizations, we know that the Washington Congressional delegation can be a leader in protecting the human rights of immigrants, rather than supporting arbitrary quotas for their detention. Given your extensive experience working toward immigration reform, including the most recent call to end family detention in June of this year, we believe your leadership on this issue would make a powerful difference.

 As we are committed to ending the bed quota as soon as possible, we will support your initiative and recruit support from other Senators to the best of our ability.

While anti-immigrant sentiment continues to cloud legislation, we know that our Senators in Washington State are not afraid to take a stand against unconstitutional and inhumane policies.  Migrant detention not only drains tax-payer dollars, it also jeopardizes the well being of communities in Washington State. We hope that you will join us in the important task of ending the bed quota and take part in bringing about justice to immigrants and their families in Washington State and beyond.


Washington Defender Association’s Immigration Project
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
One America
Seattle Union Gospel Mission
Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
Latino Community Fund of WA
Puentes: Advocacy, Counseling & Education
Casa Latina
Abu-Bakr Islamic Center of Washington
Tacoma Community House
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Latino CIvic Alliance (LCA)
Faith Action Network
Commission on Hispanic Affairs
Washington CAN!

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