Immigrants held in U.S. detention facilities filed a lawsuit Monday decrying what they called shoddy medical care and a failure by authorities to provide accommodations for disabilities.
In the suit filed by disability and civil rights advocates in U.S. District Court, immigrants said they’re placed in isolation as punishment and denied recommended medical treatment and surgery. Some said they’ve been denied wheelchairs and a deaf detainee who communicates in American Sign Language said he has not been provided an interpreter.
The problems harm disabled immigrants and threaten anyone in one of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s more than 50,000 detention beds who winds up getting sick or isolated from other detainees, said Monica Porter, staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, one of the organizations that filed the suit.
“ICE cannot simply contract with third parties to operate its detention centers and then wash its hands of the deplorable, unlawful conditions in those detention centers,” said Tim Fox, co-executive director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center.
ICE, which largely contracts with private companies and law enforcement agencies for detention space, declined to comment specifically about the lawsuit.
An agency official said comprehensive medical care is provided to all detainees including dental and 24-hour emergency care and studies have shown about 1 percent of detainees are held in segregated housing at a given time.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of 15 immigrants from countries including Sudan and Mexico and nonprofits seeks to represent immigrant detainees across the country. The suit cites problems at eight facilities including a privately-run center in Adelanto California, and Teller County Jail in Colorado.
Advocates said they want to see changes in medical treatment and policies for the immigrants, who are fighting deportation, and the release of immigrants under alternative programs.
The number of immigrants in detention has grown in recent years. There are currently an average 55,000 immigrants in detention each day, according to ICE.