San Francisco — The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and Goodwin Procter LLP today filed a series of claims related to the mistreatment of ICE detainees while they were transported between detention facilities, as well as a FOIA lawsuit seeking more details about ICE’s contract with G4S Secure Solutions, the company contracted to provide transportation services for detainees.
In July 2017, nine women spent more than 24 hours being moved from the West County Detention Facility in Richmond to the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. The two cities are less than five hours driving distance apart.
The women’s feet, waists, and hands were shackled for much of the journey. They were denied adequate food and water. During one segment of the trip lasting several hours, the women were shoved in the back of a windowless van with no air. In the extreme heat, several women couldn’t breathe and felt as though they were suffocating. Some vomited and fainted. [[[read a blog post by one of the women here]]]
“These women were treated like cargo, with no regard for their health, safety, or human rights,” said Vasudha Talla, a staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “The federal government must abide by the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees basic rights to everyone in this country.”
The FOIA lawsuit, which requests contracts between ICE and G4S Secure Solutions, seeks information that will shed light on policies for civil immigration detainees. Outside the US, G4S has been accused of negligent care of detainees, leading to injuries and death.
The women’s story is one of the latest in years of complaints by detainees about substandard conditions in transfer and transport and injuries caused by shackling practices. In 2014, the ACLU wrote to ICE detailing the safety hazards and physical harm in shackling throughout prolonged transports, the lack of sufficient food and water during trips, and failure to provide bathroom breaks. Immigration detention is supposed to be “civil” but the unjust and inhumane experiences people have suffered violate the law and core American values.
“Both ICE and G4S have troubling histories of mistreatment of detainees. The facts here are cause for alarm,” said Neel Chatterjee of Goodwin Procter LLC. “ICE and G4S cannot hide their mistreatment of people and must be held accountable for the endangerment of people in their care.”
The claims were filed with the federal government on behalf of four women under the Federal Tort Claims Act.