New ACLU of Arizona Report Documents Inhumane Conditions, Flawed Policies at Immigration Detention Centers in Arizona

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
June 23, 2011 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

ACLU Urges Termination of Contract with Pinal County Jail

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

PHOENIX – The U.S. government’s heavy reliance on immigration detention has led to inhumane conditions in Arizona’s five immigration detention centers, unnecessary and prolonged detention and abusive treatment of immigrants, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona released today. The 36-page report, “In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers,” is the most comprehensive report documenting the experiences of immigrants detained by the federal government in Arizona.

“Many of the men and women that we spoke to are needlessly detained for many months to several years in terrible conditions that jeopardize their safety and well-being,” said ACLU of Arizona staff attorney Victoria Lopez, who authored the report based on 115 face-to-face interviews conducted with people detained in Eloy and Florence, Arizona over a two-year period from March 2009 through March 2011. “Until there is independent oversight and monitoring of facilities where immigration detainees are held, detainees have no choice but to speak up for themselves.”

As part of the ACLU’s documentation efforts, Lopez spent countless hours corresponding with detainees, interviewing their family members, and culling through hundreds of government records, including more than 500 grievances. The report illustrates the real stories of people, including vulnerable women and transgender detainees, who have suffered from abuses related to inhumane conditions and inadequate legal protections while detained.

According to the report, flawed immigration policies, including local immigration enforcement, have led to a 58% increase in immigration detention in Arizona over the past six years. In addition, because there are no legally-enforceable standards and the majority of immigration detention centers in Arizona are operated by either private corporations or a local county jail, there is very little oversight over the delivery of medical care, grievance procedures, and overall treatment of detainees.

One of the cases cited by the ACLU in its report documents the story of Leticia, a single mother of two U.S. citizen children with no criminal history who was detained for almost two years by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Pinal County Jail (PCJ), which is operated by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. During most of that time, she was not allowed contact visits with her children or outdoor recreation and endured deplorable conditions.

Despite statements by the Department of Homeland Security almost two years ago indicating initiatives to reform the immigration detention system, major failures persist in the Arizona facilities, the ACLU said. Among its recommendations, the ACLU-AZ called on ICE to terminate its contract with PCJ, which received “deficient” ratings in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and where the ACLU documented the most egregious examples of human rights abuses.

For example, in the winter 2010, ICE transferred hundreds of immigrant women out of PCJ after the women submitted petition letters complaining of abusive treatment by guards, insufficient hygiene supplies, and poor medical treatment. In the spring 2011, men detained at the same jail began a hunger strike to protest many of the same problems. Over the course of the past year, the ACLU-AZ has also received reports from PCJ involving excessive use of force against detainees and jail officials’ failure to accommodate detainees’ religious needs.

“No amount of cosmetic fixes will take care of the fact that immigration detention presents major fiscal and human costs for immigrants and citizens alike,” added Lopez. “DHS should take immediate steps to end its contract with Pinal County Jail officials who aren’t being held accountable and operate a facility that fails to meet even minimum constitutional standards.”

With 3,000 people detained on any given day in ICE facilities in Arizona, the ACLU-AZ also called on the federal government to reduce the number of people subjected to detention in Arizona by utilizing more cost-effective alternatives to detention and ensure that conditions in Arizona detention facilities comport with basic human rights and needs.

The ACLU-AZ’s full report, “In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers,” is available online at:

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release