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Washington to lead multi-state lawsuit against Trump Administration immigration policies

“I’m here to say that we should not, we must not, and we will not be bullied by this president.” -Governor Jay Inslee


At the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac today, Governor Jay Inslee, together with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Jorge Baron, Executive Director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), Michelle Storms of the ACLU of Washington, and several state legislators, announced that Washington will lead a coalition of 10 states filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration for its now infamous family separation policies.

AG Ferguson explained that his office began investigating and preparing the lawsuit last month, when the “zero-tolerance” immigration policies were announced, but that the recent family separations and transfers of detainees to Washington accelerated the time line. He explained that his office had planned to file the suit today, but was momentarily to “pausing” immediate action in light of  executive order purporting to end the separation policy which President Trump signed yesterday.

Nine states, including California, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, will join Washington in the lawsuit. AG Ferguson stated that his office will be coordinating with these states over the next few days to ensure that filings also address any new legal issues that arise from the executive order.

Governor Inslee praised the Attorney General’s office for its leadership with the law suit and sharply criticized the Trump Administration’s policies and their results.

“We are going to make sure that the lessons that we have learned about the inhumanity in the White House are learned well and they are these. We are going to make sure that his [Trump’s] cruelty is outmatched by our compassion. We are going to make sure that his chaos is overcome by the US Constitution. And we are going to make sure that the den of deceit that is all a part of the White House is overcome by our insistence that the President of the United States stop lying to the American people.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson recounted that state’s legal team, along with attorneys from NWIRP, spent most of the day yesterday interviewing some of the 174 women detainees that have been brought here to Washington. Unfortunately, the attorneys learned that just prior to their arrival, many of the detainees were transferred from SeaTac to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA.

Of the interviews AG Ferguson remarked,

“The President likes to dehumanize these folks who are seeking asylum here in this country and, as the team realized, you have those conversations and you realize the heartbreak that is going on.”

Jorge Baron of NWIRP explained that it is not immediately clear if the transfer out of the federal jail is an improvement for the detainees as they had previously reported being treated much worse in private facilities, like the Northwest Detention Facility, in other states. Baron stated that, NWIRP had interviewed 155 of the nearly 200 asylum seekers that were transferred here to Washington.

So far NWIRP has identified 45 parents that have been separated from their children. Those parents are still separated from their children, some of them for as long as 30 days already. Perhaps most concerning is that none of the aslum seekers have yet received the “credible threat” interviews that are required to even to establish their claims of asylum and be released.

Despite the narrative from the federal government that all those separated from their children had entered the US illegally, ICE has also separated families that attempted to claim asylum at legal ports of entry. Baron said,

“We have seen parents that have come to a port of entry, so did what the administration asked them to do. They applied for asylum and then they were separate from their children. We have seen cases where the parent actually wasn’t prosecuted. They still got separated from their children.”

He continued,

“I think it’s really important to understand that this policy of separation was covered up by this idea of criminal prosecution. Because when our clients went before the federal judge at the southern border they were told you have served your time, you are done with that case. Everybody was under the impression that because the criminal case was done they were going to be reunited with their children, but that hasn’t happened.”

As of today, all 45 parents are either being represented by NWIRP or have volunteer legal representation. Baron explained that in conjunction with the Washington State law suit, NWIRP will be filing a separate lawsuit on behalf of the parents who have additional types of legal claims.

As for the 9 children kept here in Washington, none of their parents are in the SeaTac or Tacoma facilities. Despite inquiries from the highest level, authorities have not responded with information as to where their parents are being held. Governor Inslee explained,

“Bob and I have asked a simple question. Where are the parents of the 9 children that are in the State of Washington so that we can work on the reunification? They have refused to answer to the Governor and the Attorney General. You can’t think you’ve got somebody acting in good faith when that happens.”

He assured those gathered that DSHS had visited the children to evaluate and interview them. The children, some as young as 6, the governor noted, are in good condition physically, but he continued,

“It doesn’t matter what their physical condition is because their emotional condition is that they have been tortured. Separation from their parents is torture.”

According to Ferguson and Baron the anticipated lawsuits should be filed in the next couple days. This marks the 27th law suit from the state against the Trump administration and, as Ferguson proudly pointed out, all have been successful. For the sake of the children, let’s hope that these efforts will have similar results.