TACOMA, Wash. — On any given day, more than 1,500 non-U.S. citizens are detained inside the Northwest ICE processing center in Tacoma.
Detention centers like the one in Tacoma are usually not open to cameras, but this week the Department of Homeland Security allowed reporters to get an inside look to shed some light on how the facility operates.
Once past the gate and barbed wire fence, the detention center operates much like any prison or jail in the United States. However, Nathalie Asher, the director of the Seattle Field Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, described what she calls "a sad state of affairs" when it comes to how her officers are treated.
“All of the unfair attacks on my officers, even physical assaults, frankly it’s offensive. They’re doing their jobs out there and there’s this current climate to encourage taking on and challenging officers and thwarting an arrest. I’ve never seen that. That’s what is disheartening to me,” said Asher.
Tensions came to a head two months ago when a man armed with incendiary devices was shot and killed outside the Tacoma detention center.
Asher fears that attack was aimed at her officers.
“I got to tell you, officer to officer, we’d all just like to do our jobs and go home to our families but politics get in the way so then it creates some of that friction and that’s what’s unfortunate, too,” Asher continued.
The Tacoma detention facility has been heavily criticized for its treatment of migrants.
During the tour of the facility, reporters were shown the holding cells, medical facility, and a commercial kitchen.
The average stay at the facility is 70 days.
“I know that what we are doing is the law and frankly - as we have said over and over and over again - I don’t make the laws, that’s Congress. If they don’t like what we’re doing then change the laws,” Asher said.
In the Tacoma facility, 65 nationalities are represented: 31% are from Mexico and 11% from India.