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Center for Human Rights - Celebrating 15 Years! Students • Partners • Research

Alejandra Puerto researches the impact of the collaboration between state agents and ICE

Alejandra Puerto and new undergraduate interns

December 2, 2019

The Benjamin Linder Award/Fund allowed for me to participate in research being conducted with the Center for Human Rights (CHR) at the University of Washington. I had the privilege of working with Angelina Godoy, Phil Neff, and Tara Saleh this summer in human rights work that centered itself on undocumented migrants in our state. Recently, Washington passed the Keep Washington Working Act (KWW). This act prohibits law enforcement agents from questioning people’s immigration status and limits collaboration with ICE in the detention of non-citizens. These practices negatively impact the public safety of the community. These impacts range from fear of reporting crimes, which risk their safety, to not attending court proceeding as defendants, plaintiffs, or witnesses which impedes access to justice.

Civil immigration arrests by ICE and Border Patrol at or near courthouses have been a nationwide battle and we are joining to work to end the practice of courthouse arrests in our state. We worked throughout the summer to uncover the collaborations among state agents, (specifically in Grant, Clark, and Adams counties), and ICE officials in courthouse arrest cases by filing public records requests for their communications. We also needed to find cases of courthouse arrests in the State in order to prove that this was taking place. In order to find these cases we had to search through public court records and news sites.

Along with this research I was able to work with UW Alum, Alex Montalvo and current UW graduate student, Wadii Boughdir in creating a video discussing the intricacies of ICE Air. The CHR released a report in early 2019 exposing the suspicious ways in which ICE operates deportation flights and the role that counties in Washington state play in the flights*. This video is meant to inform the public of these flights that were once departing from Seattle and are continuing in Yakima. The video also highlights the abuse that many of the passengers/detainees face.

I am immensely grateful for the research opportunities the Benjamin Linder Justice Award allowed me to be a part of this summer. This work has given me an insight, not only into the importance of advocating for human rights work in other countries, but also the ways in which human rights work is important in our own communities. After this summer, I have continued to work with the CHR in human rights work relating to immigration in Washington state. I hope to continue working with the CHR for the rest of my time at the University of Washington.

*Learn more about ICE Air flights by reading these reports.