SEATAC, Wash. -- Saturday, hundreds rallied outside the SeaTac Federal Detention Center demanding the freedom of dozens of immigrant mothers who were detained while seeking asylum and separated from their children.
Outside the prison, community members chanted and marched demanding action. They were joined by several local lawmakers.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and United States Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal all spoke to the crowds during the rally.
Jayapal told the crowd she spent three hours in the prison with the detainees.
She says in total there are about 170 women in custody; most of them are seeking asylum. Jayapal said a majority of those women are mothers. She says in some cases they’ve been detained for more than a month.
“They were not given any chance to see their children, to explain what was happening. They were literally taken from them put in different rooms and said they would never see their children again,” said Jayapal.
She says these mothers came to the United States seeking protection for their families from issues like gang violence and rape.
Now, instead of having that safety, most them have no idea where their children are, she said.
“Heartbreaking, cruel, inhumane! Should not be happening in the United States of America,” she said.
And it’s not just adults, Governor Inslee says at least six immigrant children are in Seattle being held at foster care facilities.
Jayapal says she is not giving up. She is working to get every detainee’s name to get them appropriate legal representation and reunite them with their families.
Earlier in the week, ICE agents said the use of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, like the SeaTac Federal Detention Center, is intended to be temporary until they find more space to hold people, or the surge in illegal immigrants goes down.