Illegal immigrants are suing the U.S. government for what they say was psychological and physical harm due to their detention, according to an Associated Press report.
The five illegal immigrants, all hailing from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, are seeking millions of dollars in damages and claim they received poor medical care and suffered psychologically from being detained.
Andrew Free, the immigration lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told the AP that the government’s use of family detention violates their rights and that the government fails to provide the “standard of care that they owe to these detainees.”
“We expect this will be the first in a large set of filings on the mistreatment of these women and children on behalf of the government,” Free told the AP.
While Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agency named in the suit that oversees detention centers — would not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told the AP that the detention centers are an “open environment” that provide access to play areas, educational services, medical care, and legal help.
She noted that such facilities are “an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity as families go through immigration proceedings or await return to their home countries.”
To be sure, more than 84 percent of family units released on alternative to detention have absconded, simply skipping their immigration hearings.
According to News Radio 1200 WOAI, the illegal immigrants are seeking $10 million in damages.
The suit follows a recent federal judge’s ruling ordering the release of currently detained illegal immigrant family units and calls from Democratic lawmakers to end the practice of family detention. Last week the Obama administration argued against the judge’s ruling pointing out that simply releasing new illegal immigrants into the interior could inspire more illegal immigration.