SAN FRANCISCO — The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and Goodwin Procter LLP today filed a lawsuit against ICE transportation contractor G4S Secure Solutions on behalf of four women in ICE custody who were shackled by their hands and feet, then forced to ride in a boiling, windowless van for hours with no food, water, medication or toilet access.
The suit is seeking damages for the women’s extreme suffering and the injuries they sustained during a harrowing journey between ICE detention facilities.
The four plaintiffs were among a group of nine women who in July 2017 spent more than 24 hours being shuttled from the West County Detention Facility in Richmond to the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. Given that the two cities are less than five hours drive apart, that was an outrageously long journey. The women were caged in the back of a van that was so hot, some of the passengers fainted and vomited. Mothers and grandmothers fearing they would never see their children again, began to pray.
“We were banging on the walls, but they couldn’t hear us, or they just didn’t listen,” said Floricel Liborio Ramos, one of the plaintiffs. I thought I would take my last breath in the back of that van.”
The women suffered heat stroke symptoms as a result of their brutal treatment. One was deprived of critical diabetes medication, causing her to suffer symptoms of diabetic shock. Another detainee with severe asthma had her inhaler taken away. And for almost 12 hours, the women were deprived of food, water, and a toilet.
Far from being an isolated incident, this is part of the federal government’s appalling pattern of shackling detainees for lengthy journeys with complete disregard for their safety.
“Yet again it is clear that ICE cannot fulfill its basic commitment to treat people humanely,” said Vasudha Talla, a staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “We know that G4S has been criticized for their treatment of detainees in other countries. ICE should have known better than to hire them.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of claims by the ACLU and Goodwin Procter to highlight these egregious abuses and hold the federal government and its contractor accountable for human rights violations.
“Both ICE and G4S have long histories of mistreatment of detainees,” said Neel Chatterjee of Goodwin Procter LLP. “When the government detains people, it needs to ensure the detainees’ health and safety. The fact is, someone could have died in the back of one of those sweltering vans.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of California.
The complaint can be found here.