Madrigales Vasquez, et al., v. United States of America, No. 3:23-cv-5397, (W.D. Wash., filed May 2, 2023)
On February 21, 2021, a family of asylum seekers—two minor children and their parents—entered the United States seeking protection from persecution in Guatemala. After a long and arduous journey on foot and by bus, federal immigration officers arrested the family, dropped them off under an international border bridge near McAllen, Texas, and held the family there for three days, where hundreds of other migrants were similarly being held.
The family expressed to officers their intention to apply for asylum right away, but officers ignored the family’s vulnerable situation and instead continued to detain them under the bridge in inhumane and unsafe conditions that violated their basic rights and sense of dignity as human beings.
While held under the bridge, the family lacked adequate access to basic necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. They were constantly exposed to the elements and forced to sleep on the bare ground, with hardly any protection from freezing night conditions. For three days, they constantly felt cold, sore, famished, and exhausted. When one of the parents became ill from the conditions, she was denied medical care. Moreover, officers put the family and other asylum seekers at risk of contracting COVID-19 during a time when the vast majority of the United States and world population remained unvaccinated. In the holding area under the bridge, asylum seekers had no access to running water or hygiene items like soap, and social distancing was impossible in the crowded conditions.
During their three days under the bridge, officers refused to provide the family with any explanation regarding their situation, why they were detained, or what was going to happen to them. As a direct result of this unlawful conduct, the family suffered severe physical, mental, and psychological harm.
On June 21, 2022, the family submitted an administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) against the government actors who detained them, and on May 2, 2023, they filed a complaint in federal court in the Western District of Washington, where they currently reside.
Counsel: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Contact: Matt Adams | Northwest Immigrant Rights Project | 206.957.8611 | email@example.com