Administrative Complaint Re: Extreme Temperatures in CBP Short Term Detention Facilities

Administrative Complaint Re: Extreme Temperatures in CBP Short Term Detention Facilities

On February 2, 2016, NIP/NLG, in collaboration with Programa de Defensa e Incidencia Binacional  and the ACLU of New Mexico, filed an administrative complaint on behalf of persons held by CBP in short-term detention facilities where they are exposed to extreme temperatures. The administrative complaint also challenges the agency standards  addressing temperature controls in short-term facilities, but asserts that the agency fails to abide even by these standards.

Shortly after the complaint was filed, DHS OIG announced that it would inspect short-term detention facilities.

Counsel: Programa de Defensa e Incidencia Binacional (PDIB) | National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild | ACLU of New Mexico

Contact: Trina Realmuto | National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild | trina@nipnlg.org

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FTCA Administrative Complaint by Immigrant Mothers’ Against DHS/CBP/ICE

FTCA Administrative Complaint by Immigrant Mothers’ Against DHS/CBP/ICE

On August 10, 2015, five immigrant mothers sent administrative complaints to the Department of Homeland Security under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the abuses the women and their children had suffered while detained in ICE custody. These women, who fled their home countries due to endemic violence suffered at the hands of criminal gangs and intimate partners, sought asylum in the United States. After entering the custody of CBP/ICE, they endured deplorable detention conditions, including woefully inadequate medical and mental health care, little to no legal information as to their rights and/or fates, no educational services for the detained children, and lack of access to necessities such as food, water, clothing, and bathing facilities.

Counsel: R. Andrew Free | Barrett, Johnston, Martin & Garrison, LLC

Contact: R. Andrew Free | (615) 244-2202 | Andrew@ImmigrantCivilRights.com

Press coverage:

FTCA Administrative Complaint of Honduran Family Denouncing the Hieleras (dated July 18, 2015)

John Doe and Jane Roe v. United States, 3:16-cv-856 (Mid. Dis. Nash. Filed May 12, 2016)

Claimants—a husband and wife—fled to the United States from their native Honduras in 2013 in an attempt to escape severe violence. In the six months preceding their trek north, Claimant Wife’s family had been targeted by a criminal organization, which murdered her brother outside the family business, beat her mother into a coma, and raped her 12-year-old cousin. Fearing for their safety, Claimant Wife (then nearly eight months pregnant) and Claimant Husband fled for the United States, taking their two-year-old son with them. After crossing the border, the family turned themselves in to CBP officers at the Weslaco Station in the Rio Grande Valley Sector and requested asylum. In July 2015, they filed an administrative complaint against the United States for the serious mistreatment they suffered while in CBP custody. They raise claims of negligence, gross negligence, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The family was taken to a detention center referred to as a “hielera” (“freezer” or “icebox”), where they were stripped of extra layers of clothing and their baby supplies (including diapers) were confiscated. The cell was so cold that Claimant Wife’s fingers turned color and her teeth chattered. Claimant Wife and the couple’s toddler were placed in a female-only cell with about 65 other people, including about 40 children ranging in age from newborn to 18. They were fed cold burritos and bologna sandwiches, but the youngest children could not eat them as they could not yet eat adult food. Claimants’ toddler son developed severe diarrhea but Claimant Wife was not provided with adequate supplies to clean him, such that the diarrhea leaked through the boy’s diapers.

CBP failed to provide Claimant Wife, her son, and the rest of the women and children in their cell with a bed, warm clothes, blankets, adequate edible food and potable water, and enough toilet paper or other cleaning supplies. The lights were on the entire time the family was in detention. Those who requested even the slightest accommodation were ridiculed, mocked, and even yelled at by CBP officers. As a result of these conditions, Claimant Wife and her child were unable to sleep more than a few minutes at a time. Children cried incessantly about the cold and lack of food and water.

Experiencing severe stomach pain and concerned about having to give birth in those filthy conditions, Claimant Wife begged for medical treatment. She was eventually taken to a nearby hospital, where the medical staff determined that she was in the process of dilation and informed CBP in writing that Claimant Wife was not medically able to travel. The staff also instructed Claimant Wife and (upon information and belief) CBP staff that she should be released from detention so as to prevent preterm labor and minimize the risk of medical harm to her and the baby, but CBP returned Claimant Wife to detention instead.

Over the next day, the family attempted to obtain information about their release and were only released after successfully convincing a CBP officer to check the doctor’s release order. Previously, CBP officers had told Claimant that she should not have her baby in detention, threatening her with prolonged detention and her husband’s deportation back to Honduras if she did so. When Claimants asked for medical treatment for their young son, who was visibly ill and dehydrated form diarrhea, they were told that if the officers took him to get medical attention, it would take longer for the family to be released. The officers also made clear to the family that they did not qualify and could not apply for asylum.

After nearly 72 hours in the freezing hielera without access to adequate food, water, hygiene, necessities, blankets, bedding, warmth, sleep, and medical care, CBP released the family by leaving them at a bus station in the middle of the night.

Claimants filed an administrative FTCA complaint on July 18, 2015, and suit in federal district court in May 2016. On August 19, 2016, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case. On October 26, 2017, the Court denied the government’s motion to dismiss, holding that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged injuries caused by the Defendant’s misconduct.

On January 23, 2018, the case was resolved following a voluntary dismissal of the action.

Counsel: R. Andrew Free | Barrett, Johnston, Martin & Garrison, LLC

Contact: R. Andrew Free | (615) 244-2202 | Andrew@ImmigrantCivilRights.com

Doe v. Nielsen

Doe v. Nielsen, No. 4:15-cv-00250-DCB (D. Ariz., filed June 8, 2015)

Three individuals filed a class action suit challenging detention conditions in the Tucson Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. The complaint alleges that the Tucson Sector Border Patrol holds men, women, and children in freezing, overcrowded, and filthy cells for days at a time in violation of the U.S. Constitution and CBP’s own policies. Detained individuals are stripped of outer layers of clothing and forced to suffer in brutally cold temperatures; deprived of beds, bedding, and sleep; denied adequate food, water, medicine and medical care, and basic sanitation and hygiene items such as soap, sufficient toilet paper, sanitary napkins, diapers, and showers; and held virtually incommunicado in these conditions for days.

The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP represent the plaintiffs and class. Plaintiffs seek to compel the Tucson Sector to bring its detention facilities in line with Constitutional standards, including limiting the time a person may be detained in holding cells to a few hours, providing adequate food, water, and medical care, beds and bedding, access to showers and hygiene supplies, and maintaining appropriate capacity limits and temperature controls, among other reforms.

Subsequent to filing the suit, Plaintiffs sought and were granted expedited discovery, and thus were able to inspect 4 of the 8 Border Patrol facilities at issue, and were given copies of CBP video recordings of the holding cells and agency logs from these same 4 facilities dating back to the filing of the complaint. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions over Defendants’ failure to fully comply with the expedited discovery order, which the Court granted in part.

On December 4, 2015, Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction. Defendants’ moved to seal much of the evidence supporting Plaintiffs’ motion, and thus block public exposure to photographs and other revealing evidence.  On January 28, 2016, Phoenix Newspapers Inc., the parent corporation to the Arizona Republic, moved to intervene in the suit for the limited purpose of opposing Defendants’ Motion to Seal.  The Court granted the Arizona Republic’s motion and unsealed numerous documents.

In early 2016, the Court certified a class consisting of all detainees who now or in the future will be detained by the Border Patrol in the Tucson Sector. The Court also denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss with respect to the constitutional claims but did dismiss Plaintiffs’ APA claim.

In late 2016, following an evidentiary hearing, the District Court issued a preliminary injunction which held, among other things, that forcing a detainee to sleep on a concrete floor with no bedding was a violation of his or her constitutional rights. The Court ordered Border Patrol to provide sleeping mats to all individuals detained for 12 hours or more; afford individuals a means to clean themselves; provide them with toothbrushes and toothpaste; monitor cell conditions to ensure that they were sanitary and that toilets and sinks were in working condition; and adopt an enhanced medical screening form to use with all detained individuals. Both parties appealed to the Ninth Circuit. On December 22, 2017, the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s decision in its entirety.

Plaintiffs’ partial motion for summary judgment was denied on March 15, 2019, with the Court ruling that all issues are best resolved at trial.

Counsel: The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP

Contact: Mary Kenney | American Immigration Council | 202.507.7512 | mkenney@immcouncil.org

Resources:

Alba Quinonez Flores v. United States of America

Alba Quinonez Flores v. United States of America
No. 1:14-cv-03166 (E.D.N.Y. Filed May 20, 2014)

Filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, this suit seeks damages for the physical and psychological injury Ms. Quinonez Flores suffered at the hands of CBP while she was detained in holding cells, known as hieleras (iceboxes), in CBP’s Rio Grande Valley Sector. The complaint alleges that CBP negligently placed Ms. Quinonez Flores in detention conditions that they knew or should have known posed a substantial risk of harm, failed to oversee the agents who managed the day-to-day operations of the detention facilities, and that their acts and omissions constituted the intentional infliction of emotional distress. For more information regarding this case, see Texas, FTCA Administrative Complaints.

On December 30, 2014, Defendants moved to transfer venue, arguing that venue was not proper in the E.D.N.Y. because Plaintiff was not lawfully present in the U.S. The court denied Defendants’ motion on June 12, 2015.

Thereafter, CBP offered to settle the case for $80,000. On February 4, 2016, after Plaintiff accepted the offer, the parties stipulated to the dismissal of the suit.

Counsel: Law Office of David K.S. Kim, PC; Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger; Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Ira Kurzban | Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger | 305-444-0060 | ira@kkwtlaw.com

FTCA Administrative Complaint of Pregnant Minor

FTCA Administrative Complaint of Pregnant Minor (dated July 7, 2014)

Claimant, who is a minor, was taken into Border Patrol custody in May, 2014. Shortly after being taken into custody, agents took her to a hospital where it was determined that she was five months pregnant and in good health. She was released by the hospital back to the custody of Border Patrol. Sometime after her return to the Border Patrol station, she began to experience abdominal pain. She asked to be taken back to the hospital, but agents refused. The agents insisted that she remain seated even though the pain was so great she needed to lie down. Her water broke and she began to bleed. The agents refused to render aid or take her back to the hospital. Finally, another agent came to her aid and took her to the hospital. She alleges that she lost the baby because she did not receive immediate aid. The complainant decided not to file a federal lawsuit.

Counsel: Javier Maldonado

Contact: Javier Maldonado | (210) 277-1603 | jmaldonado.law@gmail.com

In Re: Honduran minor

In re: Honduran minor

In this matter, a Honduran citizen in removal proceedings moved to terminate the proceedings based upon the treatment he received as a minor in both CBP and ICE custody. In 2013, when he was 17 years old, he traveled alone from Honduras to the United States. Once in the United States, he was apprehended by a Border Patrol agent. He informed the agent of his age, but the agent responded that he did not believe him. Although he was initially placed in a holding cell with children, he was soon moved to one with only adult men, none of whom were related to him. He was not provided with the notice of rights that CBP is required to serve on minors. Instead, he was coerced into signing a voluntary departure form which incorrectly listed his birth date as a year earlier, thus implying that he was 18 rather than his actual age of 17.

After signing the voluntary departure order, he was made to shower in a cell with adult males. Soon after this, he was put on a plane and transferred to ICE custody in New Jersey. In all, he spent 8 days detained with adult men before finally convincing ICE officials that he was a minor.

In his motion to terminate, the Honduran citizen alleged that CBP and ICE officials violated his rights under the INA, federal regulations, and the settlement agreement in Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 296 (1993). He argued that termination was a proper remedy because the rights that were violated were fundamental ones; because the officials conduct shocked the conscience; and because he suffered prejudice affecting his rights and the fundamental fairness of the removal proceeding.  Following the approval of the Honduran citizen’s I-360 petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, the parties voluntarily terminated this action.

Counsel: The Door, Legal Service Center

Contact: Anthony Enriquez and Elizabeth Jordan | (212) 941-9090, ext. 3426 | ejordan@door.org

In the Matter of XXXXX

In the Matter of XXXXX – Redacted Motion to Terminate Removal Proceedings (based on custody conditions and failure to report child abuse)

Respondent, a 15 year old unaccompanied minor, was arrested by border patrol agents in Texas. CBP detained her in an icebox, and failed to provide her with sufficient food, water, clothing and shelter or medical assistance for approximately eleven days. Respondent was not permitted to shower, brush her teeth or go outside.  She was given only a nylon blanket and forced to sleep on the cold floor in a room crowded with other people.  She became physically sick with cough and fever.

Respondent subsequently was placed in removal proceedings. She subsequently moved to terminate the proceedings, arguing that the agency’s conduct violated the Fifth Amendment, the  terms of the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, 8 USC 1232(b) (requiring transfer of unaccompanied minors to custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours), and that the agency’s failure to report the conduct as child abuse constituted a crime under 18 USC 2258.  The immigration judge denied the motion to terminate proceedings on February 4, 2015.  The Board of Immigration Appeals subsequently denied an interlocutory appeal.

Counsel: Bryan Johnson

Contact:  Amoachi & Johnson, PLLC | (631) 647-9701 | Bryan@amjolaw.com

Administrative Complaint to DHS Office of Inspector General and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Behalf of Unaccompanied Children Abused by CBP

Administrative Complaint to DHS Office of Inspector General and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Behalf of Unaccompanied Children Abused by CBP

On June 11, 2014, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, and the ACLU Border Litigation Project submitted an administrative complaint to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) and DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) documenting 116 cases of unaccompanied immigrant children who were abused by Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officials.

Documented from approximately March to May of 2014, the complaints include numerous reports of physical and sexual abuse, as well as verbal abuse involving death threats and racial slurs. Approximately half of the children reported the denial of medical care, including CBP refusal to treat nursing and pregnant minors and infants as young as five months old. Children were forced into stress positions, strip searches, and painful shackling in three-point restraints during transport. Virtually all of the children describe being detained in squalid conditions characterized by extreme cold, overcrowding, and no privacy. More than 80 percent described denial of adequate food and water in CBP custody, including a child whose only available drinking water came from a toilet tank and others who received only frozen or spoiled food and subsequently became ill. Many children reported being separated from other family members, and almost one in three reported that their money and/or personal belongings were confiscated by CBP officials and not returned. Approximately 70 percent reported being held beyond the legally mandated 72-hour period.

For example, M.R., a 15-year-old girl, traveled from Guatemala with her two-year-old son. Both M.R. and her son became sick while in CBP custody, but M.R.’s requests for medical attention were ignored or dismissed for approximately five days, until she and her son were finally taken to a hospital. K.A., a 14-year-old girl, had her asthma medication confiscated by CBP officials and proceeded to suffer multiple asthma attacks in the filthy and overcrowded CBP holding cells. After the first asthma attack, officials threatened that they would punish her if she were faking. H.R., a seven-year-old boy, was severely developmentally disabled and suffering from acute malnourishment when he was apprehended, but CBP held him in custody for approximately five days without any medical treatment. He was eventually hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery.

The complaint notes that many of the same abuses have been documented and reported to DHS for years, but no reforms have been implemented. The complaint further notes that DHS oversight agencies have failed to respond to individual complaints of CBP abuse, conduct investigations, or hold agents accountable, and cites to AIC’s report, No Action Taken, which made similar findings. The complaint calls for the implementation of binding short-term detention standards, independent oversight, uniform complaint procedures, and the delegation of child screening responsibilities to an entity other than CBP, such as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Department of Health and Human Services, among other recommendations.

Counsel: National Immigrant Justice Center | Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project | Americans for Immigrant Justice | Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project | ACLU Border Litigation Project

Contact:  Alexandra Fung | National Immigrant Justice Center |  AFung@heartlandalliance.org

Royce Murray | National Immigrant Justice Center | RMurray@heartlandalliance.org

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. v. CBP, et al. (Rio Grande Hieleras FOIA)

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. v. CBP, et al.
No. 1:14-cv-20945 KMW (S.D. Fla. Filed Mar. 13, 2014)

Americans for Immigrant Justice, Inc. (AI Justice) has sued CBP and DHS under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for their failure to produce any records in response to a request which sought records pertaining to CBP’s short-term detention policies and procedures, particularly as implemented in the Rio Grande Valley (Valley) in Texas.  In 2013, AI Justice interviewed over 100 individuals who had been detained in CBP holding cells in the Valley prior to being transferred to ICE detention in Miami.  These individuals uniformly reported deplorable conditions in the holding cells. They reported that Border Patrol agents refer to the cells as “hieleras,” which is Spanish for “iceboxes.”  The agents use this term because they keep the temperatures in the cells unbearably low, so that the detainees always are extremely cold.  Additionally, the holding cells are overcrowded; have no beds, although most detainees reported being there at least several days, with some being held up to two weeks; have no bathing facilities and few toiletries; and have toilets that are out in the open.  The detainees also complained of being served inadequate food.  The AI Justice FOIA seeks records relating to these holding cells for the period 2008 through 2013.

CBP finally produced some responsive records, and the parties subsequently agreed to dismiss the case by stipulation on September 10, 2015.

Counsel: Americans for Immigrant Justice

Contact: Jennie Santos | jsantos@aijustice.org