TUCSON, Ariz. — The U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector routinely holds immigrants in dirty and extremely cold cells for extended periods of time, a coalition of advocacy groups claims in a lawsuit filed in federal court this week.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three immigrants who said they were held in inhumane conditions while waiting to be transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles long-term detainment and deportations.
The groups interviewed over 75 former detainees who described cells as freezing, filthy and lacking basic needs, such as beds.
In a statement issued Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol's parent agency, said it takes the safety and welfare of detainees seriously.
“On a daily basis, agents make every effort to ensure that those in our custody are given food, water, and medical attention as needed. CBP investigates all allegations of misconduct, and is committed to making continued progress in detainee treatment and the emphasis of policies that protect human life and treat individuals with dignity and respect,” the statement said.
CBP said its facilities are designed to be short-term in nature and house detainees until they can be processed.
According to the lawsuit filed in Arizona, the Border Patrol does not adequately screen for dangerous medical conditions or provide access to medical personnel. In one example, a detainee asked agents to help her 7-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen, for help with what she thought was an ear infection. The agent told the detainee, “There is no medicine here.”
The lawsuit also alleges that detainees are subjected to sleep deprivation while held in overcrowded, foul-smelling cells.
The Tucson Sector has apprehended over 200,000 people in the past two fiscal years, although the Rio Grande Valley Sector in south Texas has seen more migrants cross through there recently.