Civil Rights Groups Sue President Trump and ICE for Jailing Immigrants in Inhumane, Unconstitutional Conditions in Federal Prison

August 1, 2018 12:15 pm

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LOS ANGELES — The American Civil Liberties Union, Prison Law Office, and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center filed a lawsuit today against President Trump and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for violating the constitutional rights of immigrants detained at FCI Victorville, a federal prison in Victorville, California.

In early June, ICE began transferring immigrants from ICE and Customs and Border Protection facilities to prisons operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), through an agreement that sanctions the detention of 1,600 people in BOP facilities in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Texas. Many of those imprisoned are asylum seekers. Some have been separated from their children.

“Like the Trump administration’s family separation and zero tolerance policies, these detention transfers were done hastily and with no regard for the lives of the people who are detained,” said Victoria Lopez, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project. “Confining immigrants in these conditions is unconscionable and unconstitutional. We will do everything in our power to make sure these men have adequate food and medical care, and are able to freely exercise their faiths.”

Security and health care staff at the prison have protested that it is ill-equipped to handle this influx of detainees. Several housing units at the prison that were previously closed due to understaffing reopened in June for the purpose of detaining immigrants, and staffing remains deficient. Detained immigrants describe conditions at the prison as dangerous and chaotic. Attorneys on the case believe this is a human rights crisis for those detained.

“People should not be imprisoned simply because they are seeking asylum in this country,” said Margot Mendelson, staff attorney at the Prison Law Office. “The federal government is needlessly locking these individuals into a medium-security federal prison, and is depriving them of basic human needs such as health care, food, and sunlight. This lawsuit calls on the government to remove ICE detainees from the federal prison at Victorville immediately and to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected.”

Immigrants detained at Victorville have had little communication with the outside world. They have not been provided adequate medical or mental health care and suffer verbal abuse and threats of isolation when they ask for medical help. They do not have access to legal materials and the most basic information is only provided to the detainees in English — which most of them don’t speak. They face additional deprivations including inadequate and insufficient food, and minimal access to outdoor spaces for fresh air and sunlight.

The men are also unable to practice their religious beliefs. Victorville officials have refused to provide religious services or other opportunities for group worship and prayer. By policy, the men are not allowed to worship outside of their cells. Officials have not provided meals that fully comport with all of the men’s’ religious needs, forcing them to eat food that violates their faith or go hungry. The men’s religious items, including religious clothing and texts, have been confiscated.

“Through its so-called ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, ICE has created a situation in which people who have violated no criminal laws and are simply seeking a better life are imprisoned and subjected to unconstitutional conditions, a pattern and practice unworthy of this country,” said Tim Fox, co-Executive Director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.

The complaint can be found here:

More information about the case, Tenang v. Trump, is available here:

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