ACLU sues Trump, ICE over conditions for migrants at California prison
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and two other groups are alleging in a lawsuit that illegal immigrants being held in a California federal prison are being denied their constitutional rights.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the Trump administration alongside civil rights groups the Prison Law Office and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, arguing that the immigrants are being denied basic food, health care and religious freedom.
“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,” said Margot Mendelson, a staff attorney at the Prison Law Office, in a statement.
The groups argue in the court filing that the the Trump administration “manufactured a ‘crisis’ of insufficient bed space to detain immigrants.” This led Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to move more than 1,000 immigrants to the prison since June 8, 2018.
“Confining immigrants in these conditions is unconscionable and unconstitutional,” said Victoria Lopez, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, in the statement. “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.”
The groups argue that the immigrants’ confinement in a federal prison environment is a violation of their rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment.
“Immigration detention is a form of civil confinement,” the suit explains. “The law prohibits the government from subjecting the population to punitive incarceration.”
The filing also argues that the detention of immigrants in the prison fails to achieve its goal of effectively processing them through immigration proceedings.
“[D]etainees report that they have not spoken to ICE officials regarding their cases.”
The lawsuit requests a court order to direct the president and ICE to move all illegal immigrant detainees from the Victorville prison “under a strict deadline” and “as quickly as possible.”
The groups also call for the president and ICE to “immediately provide” those immigrants detained in Victorville “adequate health care, nutrition, out-of-cell time, programming, reading materials, religious diets, religious clothing and jewelry, religious texts, opportunities for prayer and group worship, and other accommodations necessary to practice their religious beliefs.”
Among those items reportedly denied were Bibles and religious head coverings.
The filing also alleges that the immigrants have been routinely denied adequate health care, pointing to an alleged incident involving detainee Antush Kumar, who pushed “the emergency button” in his cell in the midst of “excruciating pain from a kidney stone.”
“In response, an officer told him to wait until the next day, and in the meantime, to soak a towel in hot water and put it over his abdomen.”
Additionally, the filing alleges that officials confiscate “all religious head covers, jewelry, and other articles of faith” from the men brought to the prison. According to the suit, no replacements are provided to detainees.
The groups also allege that the immigrants are denied any official religious services, organized by the prison, and were not allowed to conduct their own, resulting in a lack of basic sustenance. Detainees were denied halal or kosher meals, “forcing many to go hungry,” according to the filing.