The deplorable conditions in U.S. Border Patrol—an agency within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—detention facilities have been widely documented in numerous media accounts and NGO reports and challenged in federal lawsuits. Immigrant children and other immigrants detained in these facilities—often called “hieleras” or “iceboxes” because of their cold temperatures—consistently describe extremely crowded holding cells where they are forced to sleep on concrete floors, have no access to showers or basic hygiene items like soap, are provided inadequate food and have no opportunity to contact family members or lawyers. Earlier this year, the ACLU Border Litigation Project and other groups filed a complaint with DHS on behalf of 116 children detained in hieleras. The complaint alleges physical and verbal abuse, sexual assault, failure to provide medical treatment, mistreatment of infants and pregnant or nursing mothers, shackling, inhumane detention conditions and other due process concerns. Continue reading
September 16, 2014
United States Congress
Dear Member of Congress:
As the national bar association of more than 13,000 immigration lawyers and law professors, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) writes to express our deep opposition to the Administration’s detention and rapid deportation of mothers and children who have fled from Central America and are seeking asylum under U.S. law. We have asked the Administration to close the Artesia, New Mexico family detention center immediately and to reverse its deportation and detention strategy. We urge you to investigate this situation and to oppose the inhumane practices that are taking place at Artesia and any funding requests for the detention of families.
In response to the humanitarian crisis in Central America that has compelled tens of thousands of mothers and children to flee their home countries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) opened a hastily conceived facility in Artesia to detain mothers and children and rush them through the deportation process. Since July, AILA members have responded to the urgent need for– indeed the complete lack of– legal representation at Artesia by travelling at their own expense to this remote facility. Even working 18-20 hours a day, seven days a week, volunteers have barely been able to meet the demand for legal help, serving as many detainees as humanly possible through the AILA Pro Bono Project (Project).
Based on hundreds of interviews with these detained families that our expert lawyers have conducted, AILA has concluded that Artesia is a due process failure and a humanitarian disaster that cannot be fixed and must be closed immediately. Attorneys with long histories of representing clients at remote detention facilities have described Artesia as not just the worst situation they have ever encountered, but something far worse than anything they could have imagined.
Moreover, we are deeply concerned about DHS’s continued expansion of family detention– including a new facility in Karnes, Texas with at least 500 beds and a planned 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas. Within months DHS will be detaining nearly 4,000 mothers and children, a forty-fold increase in the use of detention on immigrant families. If these facilities implement the same rapid deportation model as is used in Artesia, hundreds if not thousands of mothers and children who have suffered domestic violence, sexual assault, gang violence and other atrocities protected under U.S. asylum and humanitarian law will be unlawfully repatriated to their home countries. We urge you to stop this from happening. Continue reading