Class-action suit claims Border Patrol violates immigrants' civil rights


During a six-month period in 2013, people detained by the Border Patrol near Tucson were regularly held more than 24 hours in temporary facilities, breaking the agency's own policies and subjecting immigrants to freezing, overcrowded cells without access to food, water, medical care and legal council, according to a new federal class-action lawsuit.

Combining the statements of detainees and information from the agency obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the American Immigration Council, the lawsuit contends that in the first six months of 2013 more than 80 percent of the people in Border Patrol custody in the Tucson Sector were held more than 24 hours, said the suit, filed Monday.

This contradicts the agency's own policies, including a 2008 memo which said that a detainee should not be held for more 12 hours and should be moved "promptly."

However, in 2013 more than 58,000 people, including children and pregnant mothers were held two to three days, the AIC said. Many were forced to sleep on hard benches or concrete floors in concrete cells that have been come to be called hieleras, or "iceboxes" by both agents and detainees.

This violates the Fifth Amendment rights of those detained and also violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which guides how federal agencies may set up their own guidelines, according to the suit.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to intervene and require the agency to follow new guidelines enforced by a court order.

"To my knowledge this is the first case of its kind in that it seeks a court order to fundamentally reform Border Patrol's notorious detention facilities," said James Lyall, an attorney with the ACLU of Arizona.

Lyall is part of the Border Litigation Project, which has led five separate lawsuits against Border Patrol in the past 12 months, including a lawsuit regarding the First Amendment rights of protesters at checkpoint near Amado and complaint filed by an Arizona woman who said agents threatened her with a Taser and a knife during a 2013 stop.

The recent lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Arizona by four civil rights organizations and a California law firm on behalf of two unnamed plaintiffs and Norlan Flores, a Tucson man who was detained by U.S. Border Patrol after he was pulled over by police in August 2015 ( defends-tpd/).

"It shocks the conscience," said Nora Preciado, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. "They're not providing food, water, or sleeping arrangements for thousands of people, including women and children."

To read the entire article click the following link:

For more information about the lawsuit: