A project of the Center for Community Change

ACLU Files Suit ICE for Inhumane Conditions

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The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Immigrant and Customs Enforcement in California for the denail of humane detention conditions and due process to immigrant detainees.

A team of legal organizations announced today that it is suing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in federal district court for detaining immigrants in egregious, unsanitary conditions in a downtown Los Angeles facility without soap, drinking water, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, changes of clothing or showers. The lawsuit – filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Immigration Law Center, and the law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker LLP – also charges that the unsanitary conditions have led ICE to deprive immigrants of due-process rights such as access to mail or attorneys while in detention.

The facility, known as “B-18,” was intended to temporarily house detainees for no more than 12 hours. But in a perverse distortion of its original purpose, immigration officials have kept detainees in this basement facility for weeks by shuttling them to local jails in the evening and on weekends, and returning them to the facility the next business day.

Under these intolerable conditions, immigration officials often fail to notify detainees that they have the right to obtain release on bond while their cases remain pending. Meanwhile, immigration officials deny detainees any mail correspondence, writing materials or access to other materials that would enable them to defend themselves – all of which are required by law.
“It’s shameful that immigration officers are treating detainees like animals, apparently because the immigration bureaucracy cannot seem to send detainees to the right place,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, ACLU/SC director of immigrant rights and national security. “Officers routinely crowd detainees into dirty cells under grossly unsanitary conditions. They then deny them access to basic constitutional necessities like the use of the mail, making it impossible for them to defend themselves.”
It is truly inhumane that these people are treated like animals, crowded into unsanitary conditions and denied their basic legal rights. For those of you who will start your screams of “illegal is illegal”, please note that these detainees are not only folks who have entered the country without papers, but also people who have overstayed visas or are in the midst of filing for asylum.

This lawsuit, which comes merely days after Amnesty International released a damning report on immigrant detention in the U.S., is yet another symptom of the broken system desperate for reform. Let’s hope that Dora Schriro was serious about improving detention conditions for immigrants detained in the United States. Its an improvement that is way overdue.

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