ACLU says migrants forced to sleep in dirt, wake up every three hours

Migrants at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry are being held in "caged dirt filled outdoor areas" and are forced to wake up every three hours, a complaint filed Saturday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleges.

The complaint, sent to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and civil rights office by the ACLU Border Rights Center and the ACLU of Texas, calls for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to cease holding immigrant families in what it called outdoor caged areas and for an investigation into their treatment at the Paso del Norte port of entry.  

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"The detention of migrants for multiple nights in outdoor detention pens is an unprecedented and extreme violation," the complaint said. "The agency’s decision to detain migrants, including children, in caged dirt filled outdoor areas is an escalation of this administration’s cruelty." 

The ACLU also alleged that Border Patrol agents force families to wake up every three hours and stand for "prolonged periods," resulting in sleep depravation. 

"Families report that Border Patrol agents wake them every three hours and force them to stand for prolonged periods, preventing migrants, including children, from sleeping for more than short periods of time for multiple nights," the complaint said. 

It also alleged that families were told to sleep on the ground in temperatures as cold as 37 degrees Fahrenheit with nothing but "paper-thin" Mylar sheets to protect them. 

"Border Patrol’s detention of people in outdoor pens, forcing families and children to sleep in the dirt for days, is just the latest cruelty inflicted on asylum seeker [sic] by this administration," said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU Border Rights Center, in a Monday statement.  

When asked about the allegations, CBP referred The Hill to a Saturday statement that called an increase in family apprehensions a “crisis”

“The care of those in our custody is paramount,” the statement said. “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the United States Border Patrol (USBP) are devoted to the care and processing of the individuals in our custody with the utmost dignity and respect.”

“CBP’s facilities and manpower cannot support this dramatic increase in apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children,” it continued. “This crisis has forced CBP to seek every possible temporary solution to safely house, process, and care for those in custody."

Last week, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said that the immigration system had reached a "breaking point" because of the number of families entering the country. 

—Updated at 11:41 a.m.