Immigration Activists File Class Action Suit Against Border Patrol Over Treatment of Detained Immigrants

Original article appeared in the Latin Post.

By Rodrigo Ugarte

A group of immigrant activist and civil rights groups have filed a class-action suit on behalf of three people against the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, claiming CBP’s Tucson area officers violated CBP policy concerning the detainment and treatment of immigrants.

The American Immigration Council along with the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP on behalf of two unidentified immigrant women and a Tucson man, according to an AIC press release.

The lawsuit argues the Tucson Sector CBP violated the plaintiffs’ right to due process, established in the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act.

The complaint lists Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael J. Fisher, Arizona Joint Field Commander Jeffrey Self, and Chief Patrol Agent of Tucson Sector Manuel Padilla, Jr. as defendants. The plaintiffs are the two unnamed women and Norlan Flores.

The complaint argues the CBP in Tucson subjected the plaintiffs, as well as other detainees, to “inhumane and dangerous conditions” while under their custody. The facilities operated within Tucson Sector failed to provide detainees with bedding, appropriate medical care, soap and basic hygiene necessities as well as potable water. Pregnant women and children were deprived of warm clothing and forced to sleep in overcrowded concrete cells referred to as hieleras or iceboxes.

Detainees were denied access to the outside and were only removed from the cells for questioning. However, according to CBP policy, detainees are only meant to be held in holding cells for up to 12 hours. The plaintiffs argue CBP held them in these conditions for two to three days, violating CBP policy as well as their Fifth Amendment rights.