A federal judge in Tucson is allowing a lawsuit against the Border Patrol's alleged inhumane and unconstitutional detention methods to proceed, which means these accusations can now be looked into further.
In June of last year
, a coalition of immigration rights advocacy groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the National Immigration Law Center—filed a suit against the agency, using the testimonies of more than 75 former detainees who alleged men, women and children were kept in freezing, overcrowded and dirty cells for long periods of time (these are nicknamed "hieleras," or ice boxes), were often abused by agents, and denied access to beds, showers, water, medical care and even legal representation, according to the National Immigration Law Center.
The Department of Homeland Security denied the claims, and asked Federal District Judge David C. Bury to throw out the suit against eight Arizona Border Patrol detention centers in the Tucson sector, says a report by Fronteras Desk
. He sided with the advocacy organizations.
A June press release from the law center describes:
Former and current detainees described being packed into crowded cells with only concrete benches or the floor for a “bed.” They were stripped of warm clothing and provided with only flimsy aluminum sheets that do not protect against the frigid temperatures. In most cases, the lights are left on 24 hours a day, making sleep difficult, if not impossible. Immigrants have no soap or water to wash after using the restroom and before meals, and do not have access to showers.
The government’s own standards state that people should be detained in holding cells like those in the Tucson Border Patrol facility for no more than 12 hours, but all of the plaintiffs were held for much longer. In fact, Border Patrol’s own records show that, during a six month period in 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained over 58,000 people for 24 hours or longer in holding cells within the Tucson Sector; more than 24,000 of these individuals were held for 48 hours or longer.
According to Fronteras Desk,
the judge also ruled the case should move into a class action lawsuit, which would allow the possibility for more plaintiffs to join.