by Luna Reyna
As the delta variant spreads across the country, transfers to Northwest ICE Processing Center are spreading the virus to some of our state’s most vulnerable.
In 2018 the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) began collecting data on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flights with the assistance of Yakima Immigrant Response Network. These flights, also called ICE Air, were once carried out by the U.S. Marshals. Today, they are carried out by private businesses through private deportation contracts for ICE that are worth millions. According to Phil Neff, project coordinator for the UWCHR, the data revealed that nearly 600 people transferred to Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) in June 2021 — the most transfers from ICE Air to the facility since June 2014. With these transfers came the transmission of COVID-19, resulting in the worst outbreak of the virus the facility has ever seen.
According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health, an outbreak is considered two cases within 14 days of each other. NWIPC reported 32 cases in under 14 days. According to ICE reports, each new case was a transfer from the southern border. “My understanding is that most of them are asylum seekers …” Neff explained. “Under human rights terms, asylum seekers shouldn’t be indefinitely detained.” This number has only increased since June. At least 150 people, including nine guards and one medical personnel, have tested positive.
Continue reading COVID-19 Outbreak at ICE Detention Center Continues
by Maile Anderson and Ronnie Estoque
Around 150 people marched from the Central District to downtown on Saturday, May 1, as part of El Comité’s annual May Day or International Workers’ Day march. It was one of the smallest turnouts in two decades, but the spirit of the protesters was undeterred as they walked on behalf of immigrant and workers rights. On their way, attendees passed through Chinatown-International District where JM Wong, co-founder of Massage Parlor Outreach Project, spoke out against the recent rise in hate and violence against Asian Americans. Other speakers included Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Washington State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos.
This year’s Trabaiadorxs Esenciales y Excluidxs (Essential and Excluded Workers) march highlighted the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on vulnerable and essential workers. “2020 became a major challenge for workers,” reads the event listing on El Comité’s website. “As a result of the virus, thousands of businesses closed, some forever. Millions of workers were furloughed or lost their jobs. Many lives were thrown into a world of unemployment, poverty, compounding rental debt, and homelessness.” Protesters also marched for immigration reform, equitable vaccine access, cancelling rent debt and evictions, and solidarity against police brutality, white supremacy, and systemic racism.
Continue reading PHOTO ESSAY: El Comité’s Annual May Day March 2021
by Rich Stolz and Anna Zivarts
Following years of local advocacy and heightened scrutiny by the movement for Black lives around enforcement practices, Sound Transit has announced a new approach to fare enforcement on public transit: the fare ambassador pilot program. This pivot from a punitive system to a supportive one is long overdue. Sound Transit and other agencies must see this process through and fully divorce its transit fare system from the court system. Failure to pay for a transit ticket — whether due to poverty or misunderstanding — should never place transit riders at risk for devastating legal, financial, or physical harm.
Continue reading OPINION: No One Should Go to Court Because They Can’t Afford a Transit Ticket
by Elizabeth Turnbull
While COVID-19 cases have increased in King County since the beginning of the month overall, South King County, one of the most diverse parts of the Seattle area, has recorded disproportionate numbers of cases.
Whereas 3.2% of all tests in King County come back positive for the novel coronavirus, simply looking at the map of positive tests in the county on King County’s Daily COVID-19 Outbreak Summary webpage (you must choose the “Geography tab” in the dashboard to view the map) will show you that these numbers increase the more you travel south. For example, overall positivity rates in Auburn stand at 8.4% and of individuals tested at the Auburn testing site at 2701 C Sreet Southwest, 12.8% of tests have come back positive since Sept. 1, according to a Seattle Times article.
Continue reading Why Is South King County Dealing With Higher Numbers of COVID-19 Cases Compared to Rest of County?
by Carolyn Bick
The Seattle City Council has unanimously adopted a resolution asking Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee to create a relief fund for undocumented workers affected by the current novel coronavirus pandemic.
The resolution, which was championed at the grassroots level by several immigrants’ rights organizations and introduced by sponsors Seattle City Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda at the City Council’s May 18 meeting, asks that the governor create the fund, because undocumented workers are ineligible for regular federal or state unemployment benefits or relief, despite paying taxes like official United States citizens.
Continue reading Seattle City Council Passes Resolution Asking Gov. Inslee to Create Relief Fund for Undocumented Workers
by Carolyn Bick
Every morning at 6 a.m., Penelope punches into work at a food processing warehouse in Eltopia, Washington. She works seven days a week with no days off for $13.65 an hour. With the exception of a 30-minute lunch break, Penelope is on her feet sorting spears of asparagus for up to nine or 10 hours a day. It’s difficult work in normal times. But now, it’s become dangerous.
Penelope says her employer is not providing her or other employees with enough personal protective equipment or allowing them any space to social distance to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. She is undocumented, so she’s afraid of repercussions if she speaks out or tries to involve the Department of Labor and Industries, which is responsible for overseeing safe workplace conditions. But she is also afraid that these conditions will get her killed: she’s 40 years old and suffers from diabetes and heart disease, and has breast cancer that has recently reemerged.
Continue reading Agricultural Warehouse Workers Claim Employers Failing to Protect Them From Novel Coronavirus, Follow L&I Rules