End I.C.E. Contract In Cowlitz County - SUCCESS
We Did It!!! The I.C.E. contract with Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center is ending!!!
We had some very good news last week! After months of community-led rallies, comments at public meetings, phone calls, and letters to the editor, the Cowlitz County Superior Court Judges announced an end to Cowlitz County’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The contract will end in 60 days, and ICE cannot cage any more immigrant youth at the Cowlitz County Youth Detention Center.
As Cowlitz County community members, we were appalled to learn about the existence of this contract in our own backyard. We discovered ICE detained the youth on civil charges, for their immigration status alone, separating them from their families and communities across the country. They were locked in the detention center for months at a time with extremely limited access to any kind of stimulating activity, often spending long hours locked in their cells and penalized for talking to each other from one cell to another. Their only time outside was when walking shackled at the wrists and ankles to and from the ICE vehicle for an occasional appointment. At least one youth was detained in Cowlitz County Youth Detention Center for 530 days, after being held in a similar facility for 227 days. ICE blocked this child’s case from progressing for 23 months, failing repeatedly to take them to appointments related to their immigration case.
One child reports complaining of intense abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting for days receiving no medical attention, until someone finally took his temperature and he was rushed to the hospital where he had an emergency appendectomy.
Though Cowlitz County and ICE did not block detained youth from meeting with attorneys, there was no system in place to ensure they had access to attorneys. A lack of transparency meant our community had no idea when new youth entered the facility. No one knew ICE had sent new immigrant youth to Cowlitz County YDC until youth who were already detained told their own attorneys of the new inmates’ arrival. It was through word of mouth that the attorneys knew to reach out to the newly detained youth.
This contract caused irreversible trauma: trauma on the developing bodies and minds of adolescents, trauma on the families and communities the children were torn away from, and trauma on the Cowlitz County community as party to injustice. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every country in the world except the U.S. has signed, says children should never be detained for reasons related to their migration status, and all governments should swiftly and completely end the immigration detention of children.
The end of the contract brings us great relief and joy.
Thank you to everyone who advocated for the end of this contract! Thank you to Ricardo Rodriguez, president of Our Place Nuestra Casa Multicultural Center, and the BIPOC youth from Southwest Washington Communities United for Change who led rallies and organized community. Thank you to all the concerned community members who commented at Cowlitz County Commissioner meetings and wrote letters to the editor. Thank you to La Resistencia and the attorneys who represent the youth.
“Thanks for your support to the campaign,” said Ricardo Rodriguez. “Is great to work together and fantastic time to support the immigrante community and to end the contract with the Superior Court. Thanks to everyone for everything you do to end this contract with ICE.”
Our work is not done yet, not until ICE is out of all of our communities.
Now we’re turning our attention to HB1090, which will prohibit private, for-profit prisons and detention facilities in Washington State. We know private prisons lead to increased lengths of sentences, especially for nonviolent crimes. And private prisons and detention facilities fail to provide for inmates’ basic health care, nutrition, and safety, as they’re motivated by profits to cut operational costs. This bill is currently in committee, and we’re determined to see it pass during the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session. Please contact your Representatives and Senators to tell them you support HB1090!
We have been asking for months for Cowlitz County Commissioners to end the long term detention of ICE kids in our community.
They have refused to end the contract.
The Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center is the last county run youth detention facility in the nation to hold a contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) for long term detention.
The brains of children and teenagers are still developing, and separating them from their families and locking them in cells harms their health long-term. We know that youth inside the Cowlitz County Juvenile Detention Center are locked in their cells alone for most of the day, often go weeks without outdoor time, and have extremely limited access to books and other stimulating activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, their environment has become even more isolating than usual.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every country in the world except the U.S. has signed, says children should never be detained for reasons related to their migration status, and all governments should swiftly and completely end the immigration detention of children.
This is a matter of human compassion. As a community, we can do better for these kids. We can demand that Cowlitz County end their contract with ICE and release these kids to their families and communities.
The Cowlitz County Commissioners have the power to terminate this contract. Please join us in demanding Cowlitz County stop willfully harming children.
Take action. Click the links on the right side of this page.
"Immigrant Family Separation in Northwest Juvenile Jails," article from University of Washington Center for Human Rights (April 22, 2020): Read article HERE.
“Those who separate immigrant children from parents might as well be beating them with truncheons,” article from ACEs Too High (June 19, 2018):
video with Recordings of citizen comment against Cowlitz County’s contract with ICE 2017