A federal judge says a group of attorneys can move ahead with their lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of three undocumented immigrants once held in Border Patrol Custody around Tucson, Arizona.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first filed suit against Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security in June 2015, claiming at least 75 migrants were housed in filthy temporary holding cells and “systematically” deprived of food, water and hygiene products.
“They are denied medical care, they are denied food. There are no blankets, there’s no bedding because these are holding cells that are not meant for anyone sleeping there overnight… the conditions are pretty horrific,” said ACLU of Arizona’s Executive Director, Alessandra Soler.
The lawsuit also claims the migrants were denied access to telephone or legal counsel, which the ACLU says violates the Department of Homeland Security’s policies.
Attorneys for the Obama administration sought to have the suit tossed out, citing the strain placed on border patrol facilities following the summer 2014 surge of undocumented migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.
”Border Patrol stations are not designed for long-term care or detention; rather they are short-term facilities, and every effort is made to promptly process, transfer, or remove those in custody at the stations as quickly as is appropriate and operationally feasible,” government attorneys argued in court documents. “Even accepting plaintiffs’ allegations as true, periods of crowding may occur due to circumstances out of Border Patrol’s control. This does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.”
But this month, Senior U.S. District Judge David C. Bury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, granting the migrants class-action status. His ruling now allows their lawyers to interview more migrants and gather more evidence to present their case.
Since the lawsuit's filing, the Department of Homeland Security has implemented new nationwide migrant detention policies regarding how they address factors like temperature, meals, clean water, and hygiene.
At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, Border Patrol issued the following statement addressing the claims:
“... On a daily basis, agents make every effort to ensure that those in our custody are given food, water, and medical attention as needed. CBP investigates all allegations of misconduct, and is committed to making continued progress in detainee treatment and the emphasis of policies that protect human life and treat individuals with dignity and respect…”
Officials had no further comment.
Soler says the ACLU is not seeking any monetary damages in this suit. Instead, she says they want to see Border Patrol adhere to its own policies and standards at the facilities in question.
"This is the nation's largest law enforcement agency we're talking about. We just want them to treat people according to their own policies," said Soler.
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Aalia Shaheed is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here and follow them on Twitter: @FNCJrReporters