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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: immigration

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June 4, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Consider alternatives to locking up immigrants in ICE detention centers

Wednesday’s editorial in The Seattle Times pushes for increased oversight of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement’s Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats.

Under the status quo system — which includes an odd mandate that 34,000 detention beds are filled every night at a cost of nearly $2 billion to taxpayers (The Center for American Progress has produced several informative graphics, including the two below.)  — private prison contractors are guaranteed business.

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

Infographic by Center for American Progress

As The Atlantic and many other news organizations have reported in recent years, private contractors such as The GEO Group are making a killing at taxpayers’ expense. Not only are they profiting off crowded federal detention centers (which have doubled in occupancy over the last several years), numerous stories suggest they are protecting their profit margins by spending big bucks on lobbying.

As of June 2, local ICE spokesman Andrew Munoz reported that 1,315 detainees are in the Northwest Detention Center. Those inside who await possible deportation are not current criminal offenders. These are people who might have overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally and got caught during one of ICE’s random enforcements. See the graphic below to get a sense of how long detainees are held.

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

Infographic by the Center for American Progress

What’s the cost to taxpayers? Munoz wrote in an email that ICE’s current contract guarantees GEO is paid a daily minimum of $100.65 to operate at least 1,181 beds. Each additional bed is provided at a discounted rate of $62.52. There’s not much incentive to keep the numbers down.


Comments | Topics: adam smith, cout, detention center

May 9, 2014 at 6:10 AM

After public outcry, feds stay deportation of Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez

Updated 10:50 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued the following statement on Friday: “As I told Homeland Security Secretary [Jeh] Johnson, Ben Nunez is exactly the type of person we should not be kicking out of this country. He’s a cherished friend and member of his community, he’s a hard worker who keeps the doors open at a small business, and he’s someone Americans should be proud to call their own.”

Original story: Attorneys for Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez say they received an important notice Thursday from the Seattle office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) granting their client a year-long stay of removal.

Benjamin Nunez-Marquez is an undocumented immigrant facing deportation but his work ethic and special skills have led his bosses, two senators, and several representatives to ask he be allowed to stay. The sawyer sharpens each of the 40 teeth on the 56-inch blade he runs at the small West Sound mill on Orcas Island. Pete Helsell, the lumber company manager, says he's "absolutely critical to the operation." (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Sawyer Benjamin Nunez-Marquez sharpens each of the 40 teeth on the 56-inch blade he runs at the small West Sound mill on Orcas Island. Pete Helsell, the lumber company manager, says he’s “absolutely critical to the operation.” (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Consider this a positive development. The federal government should be more focused on rooting out serious criminals, not individuals who stay out of trouble and contribute in meaningful ways to their community.

Nuñez, the sole operator of an Orcas Island sawmill, previously faced deportation for living illegally in the United States. Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull explained his unique circumstances in an April 10 news story. In that report, the owners of West Sound Lumber said they have long struggled to find someone who could match Nuñez’s ability to use an antique saw to craft artisan products and furniture from wood.

On April 14, The Seattle Times published an editorial calling on Congress to come up with a better system for dealing with skilled immigrants:

His situation should remind Congress of the urgent need for sensible action on immigration reform. Increase work-visa limits and provide a path to citizenship for some of the nearly 11 million people living in the country illegally. The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform package last year with bipartisan support. Leaders in the Republican-led U.S. House have refused to consider it.

“The important point here is that all of the public support for Mr. Nuñez — not only from Orcas Island residents, but also our senators, congressional members and The Seattle Times — led to this happy result,” Robert Gibbs, Nuñez’s attorney in Seattle, said over the phone. “It’s unfortunate that there’s still lots of people in the community who don’t have the good fortune of knowing the right people or having the attention of the public.”


Comments | Topics: benjamin nunez marquez, comprehensive immigration reform, immigration

October 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

How a $15 minimum wage would devastate immigrant businesses

SeaTac Prop 1

Gabriel Campanario / Seattle Times

Raising the minimum wage to this level would be devastating to immigrant-owned small businesses.

On Nov. 5, SeaTac will consider whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some airport and hospitality workers with Proposition 1. Efforts are under way to raise the same issue in Seattle. Mayor Mike McGinn, who is running for re-election, has already made it an issue in a zoning permit spat with Whole Foods in Seattle. In fact, he would like to raise it even higher in Seattle. His challenger, state Sen. Ed Murray, has also indicated support for the $15 level. (Read both sides of the debate in Tuesday’s Pro/Con on Prop. 1. Our editorial board recommends a no vote on Proposition 1 in an editorial.)

And while the current ballot issue only affects SeaTac, the next stop for the minimum-wage campaign is Seattle.

Supporters of the $15 campaign say it would help low-income people and families working in these jobs. That presumes poor people are a monolithic group, all of whom want to work those jobs for the rest of their lives.


Comments | Topics: economy, immigration, millennials

July 16, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Gallup: Poll shows stronger support for Democratic views on immigration reform

A new Gallup poll released Monday indicates voters identify more with Democrats than Republicans on immigration reform. There’s all sorts of nuances between those numbers, but are GOP House members going to stand by and watch their party get caricatured as obtuse and out-of-touch with Americans? We need more pragmatic Republicans other than U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to speak up and convince members of Congress they should consider a bipartisan Senate plan that includes a path to citizenship. (For more on that proposal, see my previous blog post.)

In the chart below, 48 percent of American adults surveyed between June 13 and July 5 responded their views on immigration and immigration reform aligned more closely with the Democratic Party, while 36 percent went with Republicans. Support for the Ds was even stronger among Blacks and Hispanics. The support of those groups made a difference in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. Are stubborn “anti-anything-that-resembles-amnesty factions” of the GOP going to ignore them forever? If so, get ready for the “out of touch” chorus to get even louder and to lose more major elections.

(SOURCE: Gallup)


Why are Republicans so stubbornly opposed to moving quickly on immigration reform? Here’s one explanation from a July 5 post: too many of them have nothing to lose and plenty of self-interests to protect.

Before Democrats start cheering, they should look at the Gallup survey’s “bottom line” analysis:


Comments | Topics: gallup, immigration, poll

July 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM

U.S. House Republicans should debate, support immigration reform

Our Independence Day editorial doesn’t mince words. Now is the time for the U.S. House to give full consideration to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform package, S. 744.

Remember how Latinos overwhelmingly supported Democrats during the 2012 elections? Afterward, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called on the GOP to “modernize” and be more inclusive of minorities. Now is her party’s chance to do something substantive, and it’s stalling…

Some politicians might be too caught up in their own self-interests to take timely action. The Wall Street Journal reports only 38 of 234 House Republicans nationwide represent districts where Latinos represent 20 percent or more of the population. Those representatives have nothing to lose by stalling.

An overhaul of the system is long overdue and should include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living and working in the shadows, including roughly 230,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state.

Here’s a link to that Wall Street Journal report cited in the editorial. If you’re looking for an easy-to-read, concise breakdown of what’s in the Senate’s bill, I suggest reading this summary by the Migration Policy Institute.

Here’s an Associated Press interactive on U.S. immigration policy, including a searchable listing by state showing how senators voted. Washington senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both voted for passage.

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The bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. The process of becoming a full-fledged American will be anything but easy.


Comments | Topics: house, immigration, labor

April 15, 2013 at 6:04 AM

Should King County opt out of federal immigration enforcement?

I get uneasy when my county officials say they might stop cooperating with federal immigration authorities in the deportation of people here illegally. According to our story in Friday’s paper, the practice has been for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run a computer check on fingerprints of jail inmates and issue a 48-hour…


Comments | Topics: federalism, immigration, state's rights