“It is not ok for the government to hurt our people,” said Rose. “It is not ok for them to abuse their power.” (Rose’s husband was recently put in solitary confinement at Stafford Creek Corrections Facility in Aberdeen, Washington.)
One mile across the water from downtown Tacoma, on the industrial tide flats hides in plain sight a 1,500 plus capacity immigrant detention facility. On a monthly basis La Resistencia holds a day of solidarity outside of the immigrant detention center in Tacoma, Washington. La Resistencia is a grassroots organization led by undocumented people and people of color who have been oppressed by the immigration enforcement system. Their goal is to shut down the NWDC, and to end all detentions and deportations in Washington State. In 2021 this facility was renamed Northwest I.C.E. Processing Center but is still referred to as Northwest Detention Center (NWDC).
During the solidarity days outside of NWDC, La Resistencia organizers, in communication with people detained, share updates on the conditions inside and sometimes are able to video call into the detention center. After the most recent hunger strike where some of their demands were met and conditions were better for a brief moment, the terrible conditions are happening again. Last weekend they held a solidarity day to challenge the worsening facility conditions, abuse of solidarity confinement and cases of sexual assault happening inside of NWDC. There is at least one person they know of that has been in “segregación” (segregation), “el ollo” (the hole) or solitary confinement for the last month and a half and is not being fed enough food. He has been asking for urgent help.
There are three confirmed cases of sexual assault that have happened inside NWDC yet no official within the facility or Tacoma police have talked to any of the victims. There have been promises that the director would talk to the victims but even after submitting their complaints they have not been visited.
The cleaning services are also getting worse. There is only one pod (unit F4) that is being cleaned twice a day but all of the other units are only being cleaned once a day. There was one pod where a bottle of some liquid orange peels was found and the guards accused the person of trying to make alcohol. That person was also taken to solitary confinement for two weeks and that person was recently released.
One unit under solitary confinement but there have not been any calls received or can be made with that pod. It is still uncertain what is going on inside that pod yet. La Resistencia was notified by people in other units who have seen signs saying that the unit is under quarantine.
People detained have also been reporting that they are not receiving any new clothes. The soles on their shoes are worn out and slippery. Even undergarments are not new.
“This is supposed to be civil. But remember, if it feels like a prison, smells like a prison, it is a prison.”Maru Mora Villalpando, founding member of La Resistencia
Recently a report was issued by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights showing the use of excessive force and chemical agents being used on people in detention. “This is supposed to be civil. But remember, if it feels like a prison, smells like a prison, it is a prison,” said Maru Mora Villalpando, one of La Resistencia’s founding organizers.
“And like any prison, which we are going to talk about in a minute, it has solitary confinement and ‘agents. Remember this is a private detention center. Yet the people who work here are made to change into a different role like a swat unit. And they have done that. They have changed clothing, they dress in black, and they wear everything you would imagine a swat team does. And they storm into people’s units in the detention center.”
On February 1, 2023, a swat team stormed into the unit F3. Workers in swat gear not only took items in retaliation for people detained complaining about horrible conditions inside while using chemical agents on them. The University of Washington studies other instances where in NWDC abuse, excessive force and chemical agents were used against people detained. These occurrences have not solely happened when people detained have spoken against the inhuman conditions and also against people with mental illnesses, there are numerous people who identify having mental illnesses in this facility.
Washington House Bill HB1470, that Governor Inslee signed on May 11, 2023, calls for the allowance of unannounced health inspections. And though it may take a few years for this to be in effect by the law, there should no longer be solitary confinement in this facility, which gives more reason for this facility to be shut down.
La Resistencia is currently pushing the case of Manuela who is currently detained in NWDC. She has been incarcerated for the last five years and she has decided to go public with her case. La Resistencia was not able to reach her on video call during the solidarity day, however, to read more about Manuela’s story and sign the petition in support of her freedom from detention.
“Solitary confinement is torture.”Rose
A guest speaker at this last solidarity day was Rose, whose husband is currently being incarcerated at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility in Aberdeen, Washington. “In that prison, like this detention center, we are seeing the use and abuse of solitary confinement,” said Rose. “…Solitary confinement is torture. And the administration using that as a way to abuse people, prevent them from organizing, is something we are seeing there, and here.” Similarly, to the detention center, when concerns are brought up within Stafford Creek, the issues are not being addressed. At Stafford Creek the administration has been shutting down self-organized cultural spaces where people incarcerated are able to gather and speak their own languages and connect with people who look like them, and care about them. And try to heal before they are reintegrated back into the community. A year ago, was the death of Cory Lewis, who was a member of the Black Caucus, who died of medical neglect in the facility. Stafford Creek has a record for medical neglect and was fined $60,000 in 2021 after eight people died after testing positive for Covid.
Three weeks ago, at Stafford Creek, all the cells of Asian Pacific Islander’s group’s board members were searched. Nothing out of the ordinary was found so the administration took cultural material and then put Rose’s husband in solitary confinement. After a few days officials looked back at phone calls and made up an excuse of why he was put into solitary confinement. You can support Rose’s husband and the cultural group by going to this link to their own petition.
If you would like to donate to people detained at NWDC, La Resistencia has a growing list of people detained seeking funds to buy supplemental food from the commissary, legal support and to call their loved ones. You can donate directly on their website.
Read more about NWDC and organizing against deportation in the Pacific Northwest in these recent articles:
(“Abolish I.C.E./Chinga la Migra” and “Liberen a Todes/Free Them All” letterpress prints were printed on a mobile Provisional Press courtesy of Write253. Sales of these prints will be available at future solidarity days and the donations will go directly to people detained at NWDC. The featured image of the posters drying outside of NWDC, the photo of Saiyare’s hand inking the letterpress, and the two Lily and Wendy in front of the posters are shared with permission from Stan Shikuma of Tsuru for Solidarity. The photo of the Manuel, La Resistencia’s codirector, holding the poster was taken by Saiyare Refaei.)