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Judge Calls Out Arizona Border Patrol for Inhumane Cell Conditions for Detainees

defense-attorney-840062_640A federal judge directed Border Patrol officials to address the basic human needs of detainees held in the Tucson sector after learning of the agency’s poor treatment of detained immigration violators. A class action lawsuit filed in June 2015 states that the sector’s holding cells are overcrowded and have no heating, and detainees are not provided with regular food, water, medical care, and access to shower facilities.

The Tucson sector includes a number of Border Patrol facilities scattered across multiple towns and cities in Southern Arizona.

The lawsuit reads, “They have been packed into overcrowded and filthy holding cells with the lights glaring day and night; 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 incommunicado in these conditions for days.”

The notoriously cold conditions in the holding cells have earned them the nickname “hieleras,” which is Spanish for iceboxes.

U.S. District Judge David Bury made the order on November 18, determining that the class action lawsuit established enough proof that Border Patrol officials in Arizona had violated the detainees’ right to sleep. Of the 16,992 detainees held between June and September 2015, only 122 were provided with a sleeping mat. The rest of the detainees were forced to make do with Mylar sheets, which detainees wrapped themselves with as they slept on the floor of brightly lit concrete cells kept at temperatures between 71 and 74 °F.

In his order, Judge Bury wrote, “As to warmth, without mats, the Mylar sheets are the only barriers between the detainee and the cold, including the cold concrete floors and benches in the holding cells upon which they are forced to lie.”

“Defendants admit that the Mylar sheets do not provide insulation but merely prevent evaporation so that when wrapped around the body the Mylar blankets reflect approximately 80 percent of body heat back to the body and provide a barrier between the body and air currents or drafts,” he added.

The judge ordered Border Patrol authorities to provide detainees held for more than 12 hours with both a sleeping mat and a Mylar sheet.

He also criticized the Border Patrol for the lack of shower facilities at the holding cells, writing, “Defendants assert that the lack of shower accommodations is not a problem because detainees are transferred when approaching 72 hours. Like defendants’ failure to provide for the necessity of sleeping when detention exceeds 12 hours, defendants fail to recognize the basic human need to wash during these detentions.”

The press tried to contact Tucson Sector Arizona for comment, but did not receive any immediate feedback from their spokesperson.

For more information on the legal rights all immigrants are entitled to the moment they step foot in the United States, schedule a consultation with the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Find out how we can help you by calling our offices at (512) 215.5225.