Judge orders ‘filthy’ Arizona immigration detention centers photos released (VIDEO)

© Chip East
A federal judge in Tucson, Arizona, approved the release of some photos and documents filed as evidence in a class action lawsuit against US Customs and Border Protection over allegedly deplorable conditions in eight detention facilities.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told the court that even a partial release of the photographs and documents would invade the privacy rights of immigrants and jeopardize security at border patrol facilities.

Judge David Bury, in an order filed earlier this week, dismissed those concerns as “vague” and ordered the unsealing of certain photos and documents.

The judge also ruled that the Arizona Republic newspaper could access the evidence, photos taken by plaintiffs in the case showing unsanitary conditions in some holding-facility toilets, water fountains and other areas.

The documents are CBP inspection reports covering the recurring problems with lighting, air conditioning and surveillance cameras not working properly in the facilities. One report pointed out video monitors as well as holding room audio and video loops “have been inoperable for over two years.”

The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of immigrants who were held at eight detention facilities in southern Arizona. A coalition of advocates and lawyers, including the American Immigration Council in Washington, DC and Morrison & Foerster LLP, claim immigrants were held in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, subjected to cold and deprived of sleep by the border enforcement’s Tucson Sector.

The judge further ruled that CBP lawyers would have to present more specific arguments as to why he should keep the remaining evidence under seal as well. The remaining cache of evidence was provided by the CBP.

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A staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, one of the coalition groups representing the plaintiffs, told RT that the Tucson facilities are the second busiest in the country, handling about 70,000 to 80,000 people a year.

“We think it is part of an ongoing problem with border control. It is an agency that is not known for being transparent and open to the public. We think it is important for the public to see how the government is running these facilities, the conditions they are subjecting all these immigrants to, and the government continues to fight,” Nora Preciado, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center told RT.

“This is just a tiny part of the photographs in evidence that we have submitted to the court. We are still fighting with the federal government to release even more graphic photographs that we are hoping will see the light of day, so the public can see exactly what is happening at these detention centers.”

Preciado said regardless of immigration status, people are still protected by the Constitution, and their lawsuit alleges violations of constitutional rights.

“They are not receiving due process while they are being housed in detention. Basically, we have precedent for this. In other instances where civil detainees are held in similar conditions, the courts have said, ‘You can’t make people sleep on the ground’ [and] ‘You can’t keep people without a clean facility, not provide them adequate food, water, basic things such as soap, access to showers, some of these immigrants are being held up to four or five days, without access to a bed, blankets, shower,’” said Preciado.

“You have seen some of the photographs that depict the filthiness of the facilities. These facilities are not only housing men and adult women, they are housing children. It is really deplorable how we are treating them while we are holding them in these facilities.”