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Federal Agencies Sued

March 15, 2017

By Marinee Zavala

Conditions at detention facilities housing immigrants apprehended by Federal agents and others who turn themselves in voluntarily are being labeled as deplorable places that directly violate the human rights of thousands of detainees every year.

People in search of a better life in the United States end up finding only four walls that keep them in prison-like conditions, with almost no contact with the outside world. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties (San Diego ACLU) and two law offices have filed a class action lawsuit against Federal agencies, stressing that detainees can languish for long periods of time before they are brought before a judge. The long waits, coupled with the centers’ conditions, creates uncertainty and emotional turmoil for all these people.

“Judges exist to inform [people] of their rights, and detention without seeing a judge is very hard, emotionally,” said Bardis Vakili, senior staff attorney with the San Diego ACLU. “It has a great emotional impact; detention is always difficult, but being detained without knowing why you are there is very hard, emotionally.”

Inside the centers, there is not much hope. People who have been detained simply for not being able to prove their immigration status, or who have come voluntarily in search of political asylum, are made to wear orange jumpsuits; told when to eat, when to sleep and afforded limited specific times when they can see their loved ones.

The lawsuit contends that these three people are representative of the hundreds of individuals detained or jailed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who have spent an inordinate amount of time without seeing a judge for the first time.

The Trump administration’s promise to increase the number of people taken to these centers and to expand detention facilities, has raised red flags with non-profits such as ACLU, as they believe it is inhumane to treat someone who is only looking for a better life in the U.S. or fleeing from violence in their home country to be treated this way.

Attorneys hope that, despite how slowly legal proceedings move in the U.S., they will see an expeditious response from the federal government that will allow them to go before a judge quickly and demand the right to freedom for those who have chosen this country as their new home.

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