Detained Immigrants Subjected to Freezing Cells
Human Rights Watch recently released a comprehensive report detailing the abusive conditions that women and children face while detained in U.S. immigration holding facilities. Immigrants and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents both reportedly refer to these facilities as “hieleras” or “freezers.” Based on over 100 interviews with detained women and children, the writers of the report conclude that women and children often are held in very poor conditions, most often for one to three days, before being transferred to more long-term detention facilities. These conditions include cells with freezing temperatures and no protection from the cold except a Mylar blanket on the floor, separation from other family members, removal of all but one layer of clothing, an inability to shower, a lack of toothpaste, toothbrushes, and hand soap, and in some cases, no access to diapers or menstrual hygiene products as needed.
These conditions mirror what other investigative reporters have found in the past, as recently as in 2016 and 2017, particularly when it comes to the uncomfortably cold temperatures of the cell in which they are held. Although detainees almost always spend at least one night in these holding cells, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not routinely provide sleeping mats, arguing that these cells are not designed for overnight detention. One detention expert opined that these cells were not fit for an adult to be detained for more than 10 hours at a time.
Given the overall nature of these holding facilities, the Human Rights Watch researchers concluded that the conditions in these facilities likely violate existing federal court orders related to abusive detention conditions. These conditions are likely to violate international standards of detention, as well.
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