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Four Washington mayors call on DOJ and DHS to end “zero-tolerance” immigration policy

Over twenty-five mayors and county leaders from across the country, including four mayors from Washington State, have signed a letter calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end their “zero-tolerance” policy on prosecuting immigrants entering the country illegally.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan drafted the letter and was joined by Mayors Cheryl Selby (Olympia), Jennifer Gregerson (Mukilteo), Allan Ekberg (Tukwila), and King County Executive Dow Constantine in support. Mayors from Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Orlando, and Boston also signed on.

The letter specifically addresses the impact of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on families who are forced to separate as parents enter into the criminal court system and children are taken into government custody.

“According to media reports, the number of children in HHS custody has grown by nearly 2,000 over the past month alone,” reads the letter. “Shelters for migrant children are reportedly at 95% capacity, and HHS is preparing to add potentially thousands of beds in the coming weeks to accommodate the rising number of detained children. We find these statistics extremely disturbing.”

Before the introduction of the zero-tolerance policy, many families were detained together or were released on their own recognizance and ordered to appear in immigration court.

According to a release from the Seattle mayor’s office, during the 86th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) this weekend, Durkan will introduce an emergency resolution to condemn the DOJ and DHS’s zero tolerance policy. The resolution, introduced through the USCM Criminal Justice Committee, will call on Congress to introduce legislation to end the policy.

Though Washington is far from the Southwest border, the impact of the zero-tolerance policy has made its way into the state. On Thursday, Governor Inslee and Attorney General Ferguson sent a letter seeking information on several dozen women who were recently moved to the federal detention center in SeaTac after trying to cross the Southwest border. According to the letter, some of the women detained in SeaTac were separated from their children.

The letter is addressed to Annette Hayes, acting US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Dan Sproul, Warden of the SeaTac federal detention center, and Bryan Wilcox, acting Seattle field officer director for ICE and asks for information on the children’s care and whereabouts, when the women will be released, and the women’s access to attorneys and legal information.

“The Trump Administration’s new family separation policy is inflicting intentional, gratuitous, and permanent trauma on young children who have done nothing wrong and on parents who often have valid claims for refugee or asylum status. We need to understand immediately what impacts this new policy is having on people here in our state,” stated Inslee and Ferguson in the letter.