Caged Alone 24 Hours a Day, Denied Medicine: Lawsuit Claims ‘Torture’ in US Migrant Jails

Melvin Murillo Hernandez suffered allergic reactions so bad he had to be hospitalized four times. Martín Muñoz had no access to insulin for ten long days. Denied a wheelchair, Faour Abdallah Fraihat was unable to get to the cafeteria.

The men are three of 15 plaintiffs and two not-for-profit groups alleging “horrific conditions” and “torture” in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention centers in a new class-action lawsuit on behalf of 55,000 detainees. The plaintiffs, who live with conditions ranging from cerebral palsy and bipolar disorder to blindness and schizophrenia, accuse the US government of denying jailed migrants food, medicine, surgeries and the most basic accommodations for disabilities.

The suit filed in Los Angeles on Monday outlines individual experiences at eight different facilities, but immigration lawyers say the mistreatment is representative of systemic problems that affect tens of thousands of people. The complaint comes as the Trump administration escalates its efforts to make it harder for asylum seekers and migrants from certain countries to come to the US, detains undocumented migrants for longer periods of time and expands the use of private prison contracts in the immigration system.

Attorneys said the conditions at some US detention centers were so brutal that migrants who have fled torture and violence “are forced to abandon viable claims for immigration relief and accept deportation out of a desperate desire to escape the torture they are enduring in detention on US soil”.

“They cannot take it any more,” said Elissa Johnson, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of several not-for-profit organizations involved in the suit in Los Angeles. “That is not a choice that anyone should have to make,” she told reporters.

Near-death experiences
The suit alleges the detention center failed to provide the most elementary care or essential supports for detainees suffering from chronic conditions or living with disabilities.

By Sam Levin for THE GUARDIAN
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