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Lawsuits & Litigation

Migrants Detained Under ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Launch Lawsuit Against Trump Administration

— July 19, 2018

Migrants detained under the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy have launched a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging unsanitary living conditions in detention facilities.

Filed Monday in U.S. District Court in California, accusations detail being fed inedible food and being forced to drink ‘dirty’ water. NPR says the suit includes testimony from 200 individuals, many of who claimed poor conditions in detention.

The court documents, reports NPR, are part of a ‘long-running lawsuit that resulted in the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.’ They were filed on behalf of migrant detainees by the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law.

The Center claims the government has yet to meet the minimum standards of sanitation and care outlined in the Flores Agreement—an allegation the Department of Justice has yet to offer comments on.

NPR—which accessed the documents Tuesday—says they contain stories of migrants ‘arriving mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.’ Each of the interviewees were housed at different locations at different times. Facilities described carried implicative nicknames like the “Dog House” and the “Doug Pound.”

A 2011 image of then-Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at a summit. Sessions, along with President Trump, is among the most outspoken critics of current U.S. immigration law. Last week, Attorney General Sessions reversed existing policy on asylum-seekers, in a move that’d make it more difficult for refugees fleeing domestic violence and gang warfare to immigrate to the United States. Since assuming his position, Sessions has been an aggressive and outspoken critic of sanctuary cities. Image via Flickr/user: Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0)

Another, termed the “Ice House,” attracted media scrutiny earlier in the year when a detainee died after being left in frigid temperatures and a barren cell.

One woman, listed as ‘Fatima O.’ of Honduras, said she and her young daughter were held at one facility near the border on May 15th. Mother and daughter were kept without access to a shower or clean restroom for the first several days in detention.

“On the second or third day here, my daughter soiled herself … I asked if I could clean her because underwear [was] soiled,” Fatima said. “The guards said, ‘No.’ … She remained in her dirty underwear until we arrived at Dilley [Texas] several days later.”

Other interviewees complained of poor-quality drinking water and borderline-inedible food—sandwiches that were spoiled, served frozen-solid or otherwise indigestible.

“The worst thing was the water,” said Delmis V. of Honduras, who arrived to the United States with a 2-year old boy. “I had to plug my nose to be able to drink it. It came out of the faucet and smelled terrible.”

Complaints in the suit also outlined rampant overcrowding. Multiple people were purportedly kept in ‘cold rooms’ or small cells without enough mattresses to accommodate everyone.

At the Customs and Border Patrol facility in El Centro, “eighteen women” were forced into a room with three mattresses.

“We have fifteen sheets of nylon,” said 15-year old Anet M. “We asked for more mattresses but the officers said no. Some of slept on the benches.” The girl added that it was “cold” inside the El Centro facility. Another woman added that she was detained after a river crossing and wasn’t allowed to change out of her wet clothes.

An initial hearing is scheduled for July 27th.


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