Attorneys representing seven migrants from Central America allege U.S. Customs and Border Protection is holding them in overcrowded facilities while denying them access to legal counsel.
The plaintiffs include Jairo Alexander Gonzalez Recinos, of El Salvador; Gerardo Henrique Herrera Rivera, of El Salvador; Kevin Eduardo Rizzo Ruano, of Guatemala; Jonathan Fernando Beltran Rizzo, of Guatemala; Enerly Melitza Ramos, of Guatemala; Karen Vanessa Borjas Zuniga, of Honduras; and Julia Elizabeth Molina Lopez, of Honduras.
The lawsuit targets several Department of Homeland Security officials and seeks the immediate release of the migrants on bond, as well as any others who are similarly situated.
“Petitioners were apprehended in mid-May at or near the U.S. Border with Mexico and subsequently detained. Once apprehended, such persons are often detained for extended periods of time — on information and belief, up to six weeks — in overcrowded holding cells, with inadequate food, water, and sanitation facilities, where attorneys are not allowed to visit. The conditions in these holding cells are dangerous and inhumane,” the lawsuit stated.
The litigation follows a report from a DHS internal watchdog that revealed “dangerous overcrowding” at an El Paso Border Patrol processing facility — a facility designed to hold 125 detainees that held approximately 900 people during a two-day span in early May.
Photos published in that report show detainees packed into cells and standing on toilets to get breathing space, with many being held longer than 72 hours — the maximum amount of time CBP’s internal policy allows it to detain migrants before releasing them or transferring them to an ICE detention center.
Border Patrol has been overwhelmed with immigrants crossing the Rio Grande in large numbers and turning themselves in, stressing the agencies resources. In May, Border Patrol reported detaining approximately 133,000 migrants, the largest number for any month since 2007.