WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 2013 – Yesterday, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard [D-CA] introduced the Protect Family Values at the Border Act, legislation that would establish standards for humane treatment by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) of people detained at the border. The Act would also ensure that families are not separated or endangered when they are deported.
“The sheer number of complaints about CBP personnel using excessive force over the past five years is deeply troubling,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. “Based on reports of human rights abuses on the border, it is critical to establish clear standards for the humane treatment of migrants and give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the flexibility it needs to keep families together. This bill will help institutionalize a culture that treats individuals with fairness, dignity and respect and reflects our values as Americans.”
Women describe being locked in freezing cold, over crowded concrete rooms for weeks at a time. The cells had no beds, mattresses, blankets, or chairs. The lights were left on 24 hours a day. As many as sixty women were forced to share a single toilet located in the open in the corner of the room. The women were not given a change of clothes, were not allowed to shower or bathe, and were deprived of the most basic personal hygiene items like a toothbrush, soap or comb.
“AI Justice staff attorneys visit immigrant detention centers on a regular basis and have interviewed more than one hundred immigrant women who were subjected to abusive and inhumane treatment while in CBP custody,” said AI Justice Executive Director Cheryl Little. “Conditions in what CBP officers have referred to as the ‘hielera’ or ‘icebox’ seem nothing short of torture. We condemn such actions in other countries, and need to live up to our own ideals. Security at the Border can be achieved without subjecting women and children to such unconscionable and inhumane treatment.”.
“AI Justice has filed formal federal complaints with CBP and DHS on behalf of eight of these women, but neither CBP nor DHS has bothered to respond to the complaints,” saidAI Justice Director of Litigation Joseph Anderson. “The abuse of these women while in CBP custody makes overwhelmingly clear that the Protect Family Values at the Border Act is desperately needed. The Act would establish basic standards for the humane treatment of individuals in CBP custody, including the provision of food, bathing facilities, emergency medical care and translated legal documents.”
“Every day at AI Justice we witness first hand the devastating impact of our broken immigration policies. It is time to fix what is broken,” added Anderson. “We call on Congress to pass the Protect Family Values at the Border Act to end CBP’s abusive practices and to ensure that all persons in the custody of our government are accorded basic human rights and dignity.”