It was about a year ago that the media was fixated on unaccompanied minor children from Central America, many of them escaping the violence of narco-state drug cartels and gangs, making the dangerous trek across Mexico to the U.S., often victimized again by the “coyotes” who took them to the U.S. border.
These unfortunate children were victimized again once they got to the U.S. You have been reading for almost a year now about the unsafe conditions of the facilities in which these minor children were detained and warehoused by the U.S. Border Patrol and ICE. These unsafe conditions have now resulted in a lawsuit in Arizona. Lawsuit: Border Patrol mistreats detained immigrants:
Immigrant-rights groups are asking a federal judge to force the Border Patrol to end the “inhumane and punitive conditions” they say many detainees face at Arizona facilities.
The legal papers filed in U.S. District Court name three individuals — a man living in Tucson and two unidentified women — who attorneys say were denied food, adequate clothing and sleep.
Mary Kenney, an attorney with the American Immigration Council, said Wednesday that what the trio experienced is not unique.
A majority of the more than 72,000 people detained in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector in a six-month period in 2013 — a “representative sample” the lawyers sought through public records requests — endured the same conditions, Kenney said. And while the agency’s own guidelines say holding cells should be used for no more than 12 hours, about 80 percent were held for at least twice that long, a third held for 48 hours and almost 8,000 locked up for three days or more, all in horrible conditions.
“They have been packed into overcrowded and filthy holding cells with the lights glaring day and night; stripped of outer layers of clothing and forced to suffer in brutally cold temperatures; deprived of beds, bedding and sleep; denied adequate food, water, medicine and medical care,” the lawsuit states. It also claims a lack of “basic sanitation and hygiene items” like soap, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.
And those conditions, the attorneys say, exist in all of the short-term detention facilities that the Border Patrol operates in the Tucson Sector.
“Even those things that are easy to be fixed have not happened yet,” said Nora Preciado of the National Immigration Law Center. That, she said, leaves legal action as the only remedy.
Attorney James Lyall of the American Civil Liberties Union said the conditions are so bad that, unlike some other lawsuits against the agency, challengers have decided not to seek financial relief.
In a prepared statement, Customs and Border Protection, the parent of the Border Patrol, said the
agency did not respond to any of the specific allegations, saying that agents “make every effort to ensure that those in our custody are given food, water and medical attention as needed” with facilities “maintained in accordance with applicable laws and policies.” The statement also says the agency investigates all allegations of misconduct.
But the statement also acknowledges that the holding cells “are designed to be short term in nature and to house individuals until they can be processed, turned over to another agency or repatriated.”
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The Border Patrol, unlike Immigration and Customs Enforcement, does not have facilities designed to hold people for any length of time, Lyall said. Yet detainees are likely to be confined there at least 24 hours, if not longer.
The lawsuit says none of those detained had access to a bed while confined.
“The vast majority of former detainees — including women detained with children — were forced to spend the night on a cold cement floor or a hard bench with no mattress and no bedding,” the lawsuit states.
But there’s more.
Those detained lose all but one layer of clothing before being packed into holding cells with “extremely cold temperatures.”
“From the moment these people are apprehended they are treated in a way that can only be described as subhuman,” Preciado said.
Colette Mayer, an attorney in private practice helping with the lawsuit, said “The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that everyone in the country is entitled to some basic constitutional rights,” she said. “These people are being deprived of basic due process rights.”
Which leads to this related story. How does Congress respond to the due process rights of these unaccompanied minor children? You guessed it: Senate GOP denies funds for lawyers for immigrant children:
A GOP-controlled Senate panel on Wednesday blocked President Barack Obama’s request for $50 million to pay for legal help for unaccompanied immigrant children coming to the United States after fleeing violence in Central America.
The lawmaker responsible for the move was Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, chief author of a spending bill funding the Justice Department’s budget. The spending measure won initial approval on Wednesday but has a long way to go before becoming law.
The flow of children fleeing gangs and other dangers in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and finding their way to the U.S. is down significantly from last year, when an influx created a humanitarian crisis, in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. Significant backlogs remain.
Without lawyers, children are much more likely to be sent back to their home countries. Under federal law, immigrant children have two options to seek legal status, including requesting asylum for fear of returning home to face gang violence.
Without legal help, the maze of documentation and legal requirements is far more difficult for a child to maneuver.
The Mass Deportation Party opposed to people who are in the United States illegally have greater priorities than the $51 billion measure. As the Washington Post’s Paul Waldman snarked, “What’s the problem? We all know the legal system is so simple and easy to navigate that any 8-year-old who doesn’t speak English should be able to handle it on their own.”