Newsletter | Spring 2013
Vol. 17, Issue No. 2
In March, AI Justice filed Federal Tort Claims actions on behalf of four immigrants who were subjected to inhumane and unlawful treatment by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). AI Justice is seeking damages for cruel and inhumane treatment and is demanding that CBP immediately investigate these unlawful practices and bring a quick end to them. AI Justice has identified several other clients who suffered the same mistreatment and is preparing to file claims on their behalf.
AI Justice’s clients were taken to what CBP officers called the “hielera” or “icebox.” The hielera turned out to be a freezing cold cell where dozens—as many as sixty in one case— of detainees were locked up together, for as long as eleven days. The hielera had no beds, no chairs, and a single sink and toilet sitting in plain view in the cell. The temperature in the hielera was so cold that the peoples’ lips chapped and split, and their fingertips turned blue. The lights were kept on 24 hours a day. They were forced to sleep on the concrete floor without even a blanket. They huddled together on the floor at night for warmth, but slept very little. They had no access to a bath or shower. They were not provided with even the most basic personal hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, or soap. Nor were they ever provided with a change of clothing. CBP officers coerced them into signing documents relinquishing their rights, which they did not even understand.
Many of the women subjected to these inhumane conditions are victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is unconscionable that after escaping abuse in their home countries, they have been subjected to further abuse by the United States government. (Lawsuits Allege Abuse By Border Patrol Agents, http://aijustice.org/lawsuits-allege-abuse-by-border-patrol-agents/) In April, AI Justice’s Washington, D.C. Director, Joanne Kelsey, met with Congressional staffers; she is currently working on a bill to be introduced in the House that would address the abuses by CBP of immigrants held in the hieleras.