Man dies after attacking Tacoma immigration jail, police say

The US Department of Homeland Security Northwest Detention Center is pictured in Tacoma, Washington on February 26, 2017

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The shooting took place several hours after a peaceful rally protesting against immigrant detentions

An armed man who attacked an immigration detention centre in the US city of Tacoma died after police officers opened fire, authorities say.

Police arrived at the Northwest Detention Center early on Saturday after an employee reported that a man, armed with a rifle, was throwing “incendiary devices” at the facility.

The man’s identity remains unknown.

The shooting in Washington state came a day before a nationwide deportation operation is due to begin.

The raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials will target hundreds of immigrant families across 10 cities who have recently been ordered deported but have not yet left the country. It marks the latest move in US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on migration.

Sunday’s raids are not expected to affect Tacoma.

A police spokesperson told Reuters the incident on Saturday took place several hours after a peaceful rally outside the facility protesting against immigrant detentions.

In a statement, the Tacoma Police Department said the four police officers involved in Saturday’s shooting had been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure in such cases, and an investigation into the incident was underway.

Police arrived at the privately run Northwest Detention Center at about 04:00 local time (11:00 GMT) after receiving reports that the man was throwing “incendiary devices” at the facility and at vehicles in the car park, the statement said. The man allegedly set a vehicle on fire and attempted to ignite a propane tank and set buildings on fire.

Officers said he was wearing a satchel and carrying flares.

Tacoma Police Department confirmed that all four officers opened fire on the man, while it remains unclear if he fired at the officers.

He was found shot dead at the scene.

Northwest Detention Centre holds migrants pending deportation proceedings and has also held immigration-seeking parents separated from their children, the Associated Press reports.

GEO Group, which runs the facility, told the Associated Press that “baseless accusations” about how detainees are treated there “have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees, whose safety is our top priority”.

What is President Trump’s policy on migration?

President Donald Trump has always taken a hard line on immigration and during his election campaign made the building of a wall along the Mexican border a key pledge.

Earlier this year he declared a national emergency on the US southern border, claiming he needed special powers to build the wall to halt all illegal migration.

Controversial policies implemented by his administration in recent years include prosecuting adults who crossed the border illegally, resulting in children being separated from their parents.

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Media captionUS migrant children “hungry, dirty, sick and scared” – lawyer Elora Mukherjee

There have been reports of “dangerous overcrowding” and inhumane conditions at migrant detention centres.

Four questions about US migration

Where do these people come from?

Traditionally large numbers of Mexican economic migrants have declined, replaced in part by a surge in families with children from Central American countries – particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Why are they fleeing?

Many of these families are fleeing extreme poverty or the risk of gang violence.

Why are there still separated children?

Although the separation of migrant families was officially halted in June 2018, the New York Times reported that 700 families had been separated in the year since via “loopholes” in the court order – when parents have a criminal conviction or a disease, or when it is an aunt, uncle, or sibling accompanying the child. Some parents may be children themselves.

How many people cross the border?

It is impossible to say how many people have crossed the border. As of last month, the US Border Patrol said it had made 593,507 “southwest border apprehensions” since October 2018.

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