Media Contact

Imelda Mejia, ACLU of Texas, 317-751-3014, [email protected]

April 1, 2019

EL PASO, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union Border Rights Center and the ACLU of Texas this weekend issued a complaint concerning abusive and inhumane conditions in a outdoor Border Patrol detention facility at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas. New reports indicate that prior to a congressional visit to El Paso, Border Patrol moved the migrants, consisting of families and children, to undisclosed locations.

The complaint, sent to officials within the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, calls for an immediate end to the caging of immigrants in outdoor holding areas. It also calls for an investigation into the treatment of asylum seeking detainees held at the makeshift facility and its conditions.

“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 by this administration,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU Border Rights Center. “Our complaint documents abuses by Border Patrol in the outdoor caged areas. The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate accounts of abuse at the hands of Border Patrol agents and DHS must assure such detention conditions are never authorized again.”

According to the joint complaint, the Inspector General and Congress must act now to ensure transparent investigation into abuses reported to ACLU lawyers by former detainees, including:

  • Families, including those with children, forced to sleep in the dirt and on rocks for up to four nights;
  • Being detained outdoors on nights where temperatures have dropped into the 30s with only Mylar sheets to protect them;
  • Being woken up every three hours and forced to stand;
  • Lack of adequate medical care, food and water
  • Being sprayed with water from water bottles by an individual Border Patrol agent;
  • Verbal abuse by Border Patrol agents;
  • Filthy and foul smelling restroom facilities;

"These conditions are among the worst we've seen in recent history,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. “Locking up families with small children outside behind barbed wire fencing and forcing them to sleep in near freezing temperatures is shocking even for an Administration that has consistently developed cruel and inhumane immigration policies. The real crisis we must confront is that of the Trump administration violating the rights of those seeking refuge in our country."

The complaint further calls into question claims made by the CBP Office of Field Operations and Border Patrol that increased apprehensions have overwhelmed its indoor detention facilities. The complaint states that the current increase in asylum seekers do not reach historic highs, CBP’s budget has doubled since 2006, and the agency has more Border Patrol agents then any point in its history.