FTCA Administrative Complaint Against the United States Denouncing Hieleras

FTCA Administrative Complaint Against the United States Denouncing Hieleras (filed Mar. 12, 2013)

Jose Alberto* was apprehended at the United States Texas border by Customs and Border Protection and was told by an agent that he was being taken to a “hielera” (“freezer” or “icebox”). Mr. Alberto was placed in a small, freezing cold holding cell with approximately thirty men. The temperature was so cold that Mr. Alberto’s lips split and his face became red and felt sunburned. The cell had no beds or chairs, and had a single toilet, a sink, and two urinals out in the open. The cold made it difficult to sleep, and the size of the cell made it impossible for all of the men in the cell to lie down at the same time. The only water provided to the men was in a single thermos, shared by all. The water smelled like bleach and burned Mr. Alberto’s throat when he drank it. Mr. Alberto was held in one “hielera” for one day and night, and was transferred to a second similar “hielera” at another location, where he spent another day before he was ultimately transported to Broward Transitional Center in Florida.

While in the holding cells, Mr. Alberto was called out to speak with an officer. After answering some questions about his family, Mr. Alberto was told he had to sign documents printed in English, which Mr. Alberto does not speak or read. He repeatedly refused to sign the documents and asked what the documents said. The CBP agent ultimately told Mr. Alberto they were for his “deportation.” Mr. Alberto refused to sign the documents, saying he was afraid to go back to his country because he would be killed by a gang. The CBP agent told Mr. Alberto that he would send him to federal prison if he did not sign. Mr. Alberto became upset and began crying, and the CBP agent laughed and mocked him. After he continued to refuse to sign the documents, Mr. Alberto was taken back to the holding cell and again threatened with being sent to federal prison.

After arriving at the Broward Transitional Center, Mr. Alberto filed an FTCA administrative complaint. 

The government failed to respond to the administrative complaint within the six-month deadline. Mr. Alberto decided not to file a federal complaint.

*Not his actual name.

Counsel: Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Jennie Santos |  jsantos@aijustice.org