Border Patrol stations like the ones in Brownsville and Nogales, both in Arizona, were not meant for long-term custody. Immigrants are supposed to wait there until they are processed and taken to detention centers, but the surge in children arriving without their parents has overwhelmed the U.S. government.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – The ACLU filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking information about allegations of abuse involving migrant children who were placed under the care of immigration authorities while a wave of unaccompanied minors fled to the U.S. last summer.
ACLU chapters in Arizona and Southern California filed the suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, claiming the government has stonewalled requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for records pertaining to the children. The law firm Cooley LLP also joined the suit.
The ACLU and other advocacy groups filed a lawsuit in October against DHS seeking information on the department's policies and procedures at an isolated detention center for immigrant families with children in New Mexico.
Both suits stemmed from the unprecedented surge in immigrant children and young families this summer.
Tens of thousands of migrants crossed into the U.S. illegally, most through Texas, overwhelming Border Patrol agents who were not positioned to process so many people. Many migrant children who had crossed without a parent were sent to a warehouse in Nogales, Arizona, while they were processed. Some families were eventually sent to the new center in Artesia, New Mexico.
Most of the migrants were from Central American countries and said they were fleeing extreme violence and poverty.
The ACLU in June filed a complaint alleging that more than 100 children had been abused and mistreated while in Border Patrol custody. The organization says the children were kept in harsh temperatures and severe overcrowding, and that they were denied adequate hygiene supplies, bedding, food, water and medical care.
The Department of Homeland Security has not responded to a request for comment.
After the lawsuit was filed in October over the New Mexico detention center, the department said it did not comment on pending litigation but added that it has historically released "significant amounts of information regarding our family residential centers."