Detained migrants allege they were forced to drink foul-smelling water and spoiled food

Spoiled food, foul-smelling drinking water, overflowing toilets and inadequate access to showers are among the detent...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 8:25 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 8:25 AM

Spoiled food, foul-smelling drinking water, overflowing toilets and inadequate access to showers are among the detention conditions outlined in the latest legal challenge to the Trump administration's hardline immigration policy.

The claims, which were made by migrants detained at US Customs and Border Protection facilities in recent months, were included in court documents filed Monday as part of a longstanding federal lawsuit that resulted in the 1997 Flores settlement agreement.

The allegations come weeks after new court documents filed in a lawsuit by a coalition of state attorneys general against the administration's separation of families at the border reveal what attorneys said were horrid conditions endured by adult and child detainees.

Filings in that case included testimony of kids being confined to windowless rooms in metal enclosures that some called kennels as well as adults and children being held in prison-like conditions.

US Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection declined comment on pending litigation.

Migrants describe their experiences in US custody

There was no immediate comment from the respective detention centers.

Here is a look at some of the migrants' accounts in Monday's filing, as taken from the court documents.

'We went hungry the entire time'

Lidia, a 22-year-old migrant from El Salvador, said her four-year-old son Marcos cried from hunger during their stay at a South Texas family residential center in Dilley. She said they were given frozen sandwiches that were "not able to be eaten" and "went hungry the entire time" in custody of the US Border Patrol, beginning on June 13.

Lidia's last name as well as that of other migrants in the case were redacted from the court documents.

Another migrant named Dilsia, who left Honduras with her 12-year-old daughter Ashley, described similar conditions when detained after presenting themselves at a border crossing on June 25.

"You could feel the ice when you bit into the sandwich," said she in court documents.

Other migrants described becoming nauseated and sick from the frozen sandwiches. Some said the sandwich meat was either black or green, and that it tasted and smelled bad.

A mother 'begged for water' and was refused

Cristobal, who fled gang violence and threats in his native Guatemala, said in court documents that he and his seven-year-old son went thirsty in Border Patrol facilities after being detained in El Paso, Texas on June 23.

"(T)hey would tell us to drink from the sink above the toilet," he said. "We did not get any clean water the entire time."

Other migrants described tap water that was foul smelling and tasted bad. Some said the water had a chlorine taste.

"I had to plug my nose to be able to drink the water," said Delmis, a migrant from Honduras who spent four days in federal custody with her two young children in early June.

One mother of two young children said she "begged for water" for her daughter but was refused.

"My daughter started crying. The officers told me to shut up," according to court documents.

Not allowed a shower in five days

Lourdes, who fled Honduras with her five-year-old daughter, said in a court document they were allowed one shower and "toilets were dirty and over flowing every day" during the six days they spent in custody of the US Border Patrol.

"Both of us were covered in dirt and dust from our walk through the desert after we crossed the river," recalled Blanca, a Guatemalan migrant who said she and her four-year-old daughter were not allowed a shower for five days.

Another mother, Fatima, said her young daughter soiled herself and had to remain to her dirty underwear for several days, according to court documents.

Others said they were denied soap and towels, and had toothbrushes and toothpaste taken from them.

Soaked and held in frigid temperatures

Several migrants described the conditions at Border Patrol holding cells as frigid, especially after being detained in clothing soaked while crossing the Rio Grande into the US, according to court documents.

Some mothers said they shivered while huddling with their children on cold cement floors, unable to stay warm with Mylar blankets provided at the detention facilities.

Crowded facilities and not enough mattresses

Floridalma and her three-year-old son Broswin were detained by Border Patrol agents in June 26, according to court documents.

She said four mothers and their four children were kept in a small room at the El Centro Border Patrol facility with two mattresses to share.

"We sleep with our heads on the mattresses and our bodies on the cement floor," she recalled.

Others said crowded detention centers lacked enough mattresses, forcing migrants to sleep on wooded benches or cement floors.

Denial of legal rights

Many migrants said they were not informed of their legal rights after being detained by Border Patrol agents and not allowed to see the declarations agents made about their detentions. Some also said they were asked to sign English-language documents with no Spanish translations and not immediately given access to lawyers.

Chicago facility allegations investigated

US Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says the United States is investigating allegations of abuse at a Chicago facility that houses children separated from their parents at the Mexican border.

The allegations include physical and emotional abuse at Casa Guadalupe, a facility run by the nonprofit Heartland Alliance.

Network of shelters for undocumented minors under scrutiny

Dozens of accounts cited in a legal motion against the federal government for unlawful and inappropriate detainment of children describe overloaded and secretive shelters, treatment centers and secure detention facilities for undocumented minors -- which at their worst have allegedly been home to neglect, assault and other horrific abuse.

The allegations in the documents, as well as recent facility inspection reports and other lawsuits, range from unsanitary conditions and invasive monitoring of mail and phone calls to unair-conditioned rooms in hot Texas summers and dosing children with cocktails of psychotropic drugs disguised as vitamins. At one facility, children recounted being held down for forcible injections, which medical records show are powerful antipsychotics and sedatives.

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