Newsletter | Summer 2013
Vol. 17, Issue No. 3
AI Justice’s role as a watchdog on detention practices is more important than ever. We’ve launched our campaign to stop human-rights abuses in Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) holding stations on the Texas border. CBP calls these freezing cold cells “hieleras.”
These crowded cells have no mattresses, beds or chairs, and there is a single sink and toilet in plain view. Detainees are not given even the most basic supplies like toothbrushes, soap, combs or ample sanitary napkins, and are unable to shower or change clothing. The only water available is a single thermos, filled with bleach-like water, burning the throats of those who drink it. Bright overhead lights are left on 24/7. In March, AI Justice filed four administrative Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) complaints on behalf of clients abused in these CBP stations. In May, we filed four additional FTCA complaints. AI Justice’s work on this issue was featured in an NPR story in August. For more details, read our hielera report.
In a related effort, Joseph Anderson, AI Justice Director of Litigation, and Joanne Kelsey, Washington, DC- based Director of Advocacy, met with the staff of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in June, and worked tirelessly with the Senator’s staff for the Senate to introduce Amendment 1260 to the Senate immigration reform bill. The Amendment, which addressed conditions of detention, length of detention, and treatment in CBP stations, suffered the same fate as most amendments in the process and was not brought up for a vote.
On a positive note, after the Congressional recess in August, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) is expected to introduce a bill focusing on border issues, which will include language similar to that in Amendment 1260. Meanwhile, AI Justice continues to reach out to CBP officials regarding our request to visit border patrol stations along the Texas border.
Ms. Kelsey also continues to discuss detention issues with Department of Homeland Security officials. On July 10, 2013, she met with the Deputy Assistant Director, Custody Programs and Community Outreach, Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They discussed detention issues, including who is detained, who is released and how conditions are monitored.