ACLU Sues Trump Over ‘Inhumane’ Imprisoning of Immigrants

(Bloomberg) -- The mass warehousing of more than 1,000 immigrants apprehended crossing the U.S. border in prisons occupied by convicted criminals is “inhumane,” the American Civil Liberties Union alleged in a lawsuit against the Trump administration.

Many immigrants who arrived at the U.S. southern border seeking political asylum from life-threatening circumstances in their native countries are now locked up in federal prisons across at least five states, where they are suffering from inadequate food, lack of health care and restricted access to fresh air and sunlight, according to the complaint filed Wednesday by the civil rights group and prisoner advocacy organizations. Some of the detainees were separated at the border from their children months ago as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on border crossings.

“Confining immigrants in these conditions is unconscionable and unconstitutional,” the ACLU said in a statement. The group alleges the Trump administration manufactured with its own policies a “crisis” of insufficient bed space to detain immigrants.

Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Riverside, California.

‘Chaotic’ Conditions

The ACLU cited immigrants complaining of “dangerous” and “chaotic” conditions at a medium-security prison in Victorville, California, a former U.S. Air Force waste site about an 85-mile (136-kilometer) drive from Los Angeles.

The government is violating the constitutional rights of the immigrants by housing them in facilities designed for convicted felons rather in civil detention where migrants are typically held, the ACLU says.

“They have not been provided adequate medical or mental health care and suffer verbal abuse and threats of isolation when they ask for medical help,” the group said in its statement. “They do not have access to legal materials and the most basic information is only provided to the detainees in English, which most of them don’t speak.”

Two agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, began in June to transfer detained migrants to prisons in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Texas, according to the ACLU. Some of the facilities had previously been closed due to under-staffing.

The case is Teneng v. Trump, 5:18-cv-01609, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside).

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