The American Immigration Council (Council), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC), through their involvement in the Dilley Pro Bono Project, filed an administrative complaint with government oversight agencies highlighting a systematic failure to provide adequate medical care to children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, in violation of CBP’s own internal guidance and extensive medical guidelines.
The complaint, filed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS Office of the Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, calls for the immediate implementation of oversight mechanisms to improve access to medical services for individuals held in CBP custody.
According to Katie Shepherd, National Advocacy Counsel for the Immigration Justice Campaign, a joint Council-AILA initiative to fight for a fair day in immigration court, “When vulnerable, asylum-seeking individuals are deprived of basic, essential health care, tragic consequences ensue. Over the past year, a spate of deaths of immigrant children in CBP custody has further highlighted the need for immediate and meaningful oversight of CBP facilities. Individuals held in CBP detention have routinely described overcrowded and filthy cells, frigid temperatures, inadequate medical treatment, lack of access to hygiene products such as soap and toothbrushes, and being forced to sleep on bare concrete floors with no protection. These conditions are inexcusable—our nation can and must do better.”
The complaint is based on 200 survey responses and numerous statements from mothers who spent time in CBP custody with their children prior to being detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. One such mother – Yuri – spent eight days with her threeyear-old daughter in custody, during which the facility was put under medical quarantine, restricting detainees’ access to medical services. At one point, her daughter vomited about 10 times in an hour, but officials told Yuri she could not receive medical care because of the quarantine.
Of the surveyed mothers, 60% said that the health of their children got worse while in CBP custody.