A federal judge in Phoenix ruled to allow attorneys representing immigrant rights groups to inspect four immigrant detention facilities in Arizona where the attorneys feel immigrants were held under “inhumane and punitive” conditions on August 14. The order comes following an enormous wave of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who crossed the southwest border in the summer of 2014.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention facilities couldn’t handle the sheer volume of people they needed to house. As a result, immigrants were held in very crowded condition for varying periods of time.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, DHS objected to the ruling, and an attorney with the Department of Justice argued to Judge David C. Bury that the request amounts to a “broad fishing expedition.” However, the judge placed many limits on the inspections. Bury told the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) no more than five people can visit each site, for no more than one day at each facility. Bury also limited examination of secure areas, like holding cells, to no more than 10 minutes, advising that visitors should instead use an observation room.
The ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in June alleging that detainees were denied food, adequate clothing and sleep, and kept in ice-cold conditions without blankets and lack of sanitary facilities. While the attorneys have a considerable amount of anecdotal testimony, they felt they needed the inspections to make a stronger case for forcing DHS to make procedural changes. Bury said the attorneys for immigrant rights groups had shown “good cause” that they need to see for themselves the current conditions of facilities at Tucson, Nogales, Douglas and Casa Grande.
Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center told the Daily Star, “The conditions that exist in those facilities we think are unfit for the type of holding they do for individuals.” Tumlin acknowledged that the Border Patrol could fix some of the conditions now that it knows they are coming, and could provide some things detainees lacked. However, she said some brick-and-mortar changes, like adding showers, would be impossible.
To allow observers to get what he feels is an accurate picture, Bury ordered the Border Patrol to produce a list of video surveillance conducted and maintained in holding cells and other areas, ranging from bathrooms to areas where initial intake is conducted. He also directed the agency not to destroy or record over any of the recordings it now has.
There was no information in the Daily Star report indicating when the attorneys would be allowed to start the inspections, although Bury stated in his ruling that the attorneys needed to get into the facilities “soon.”
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.