On February 19, an Arizona judge ruled in favor of migrants who alleged that some state border facilities are holding immigrants “in extremely cold, overcrowded, unsanitary and inhumane conditions,” Time reports.
U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury ordered the Tucson sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide improved conditions for detained migrants. The order, which made permanent the judge’s 2016 preliminary injunction against the Tucson Sector, requires the agency to offer “clean mats and thin blankets to migrants held for longer than 12 hours and to allow them to clean themselves,” Time reports.
Wednesday’s ruling came several weeks after the conclusion of a seven-day trial. Attorneys representing the migrants filed the lawsuit in 2015, which predates 2019’s “surge in immigrant arrivals,” Time reports. However, this case “illustrates some of the challenges posed when migrants are detained, especially if they are children.”
Judge Bury also ruled that the Tucson Sector can no longer detain migrants for more than 48 hours after they’ve been fully processed, according to Time. Additionally, they cannot put migrants in bathrooms to sleep.
In his order Wednesday, Bury wrote that the Border Patrol and its parent agencies, or the defendants in the case, “administer a detention system that deprives detainees, who are held in CBP stations, Tucson Sector, longer than 48 hours, of conditions of confinement that meet basic human needs.”
Conditions that migrants—who are considered civil detainees, not criminal—are subjected to after 12 hours are “presumptively punitive and violate the Constitution,” and are even worse than a criminal jail or prison, the judge wrote.
“Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for communities everywhere fighting courageously to uphold human dignity and the rights enshrined in our Constitution,” Alvaro M. Huerta, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), told Time. NILC was one of the advocacy groups that worked to bring the case before the court. “We are enthused that our justice system has intervened in a meaningful way to institute much needed change and hold CBP accountable,” Huerta added.
According to Time, “about 12,000 people were in custody for more than 72 hours in the Tucson Sector last year, or about 20 percent. The average time in custody was nearly 54 hours.”