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U.S. Rep. Adam Smith Introduces Legislation to Improve Conditions at Immigrant Detention Centers

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Two months after immigrants launched a hunger strike at the privately run, for-profit Tacoma Detention Center, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) has introduced the Accountability in Immigration Detention Act.

According to Maru Mora Villalpando of the #Not1More deportation campaign, the Tacoma hunger strikers are directly responsible for making this legislation happen.  As she siad:

This is the first time I’ve read a piece of policy that made me smile.  It was based on hunger strikers’ demands instead of being shaped by lobbyists—it was shaped by the people impacted by these terrible conditions. It makes a huge difference and contributes to the debate about immigration reform.

What these guys did really changed the conversation about immigration itself. To have a politician reach out to us before we even called him—that makes this a really honest thing.

The legislation would create a committee to oversee conditions at the centers, require detention centers to be transparent and responsive in their record-keeping, and mandate that detention centers that score poorly on two consecutive inspections have their contracts terminated within 60 days.  It would also prohibit retaliation against whistleblowers and those who file grievances over conditions at the detention centers.

As Rep. Smith said in a statement today:

After visiting the NWDC to speak with detainees on hunger strike, it was clear that more enforceable standards were necessary.  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.