U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was sued by a civil liberties group claiming one of its contractors transported a group of detained immigrants in brutal conditions that had some feeling like they were going to die.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint today in San Francisco federal court after a group of women reported that they were injured and traumatized when they were moved last year between detention facilities in Richmond and Bakersfield, California.
The 282-mile (454-kilometer) trip, which should have taken five hours, instead took 24, according to the complaint. The women were shackled and during one stretch rode in the back of a hot, dark, windowless and airless van that caused some to vomit and at least one to faint. All of them felt like they were suffocating and going to die, according to the lawsuit.
“ICE does not comment on pending litigation,” Richard Rocha, a spokesman for the agency, said in an emailed statement. “ICE provides safe and humane for conditions for all individuals in our custody and adheres to rigorous national standards regarding the transfer of detainees.”
The ACLU wants to know if a security firm called G4S Secure Solutions Inc., a private contractor, was responsible for any part of the transportation. The company didn’t respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.
California is in a legal tug-of-war with the U.S. Justice Department, which has argued the state is circumventing federal authority by prohibiting local police from complying with ICE agents and directives. California has maintained the upper hand in the fight, with a Sacramento federal judge upholding the centerpiece of the state’s sanctuary protection and allowing state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to continue to inspect privately owned federal detention centers.
The ACLU wants a San Francisco federal judge to order ICE to turn over information about its contractors, originally requested in December. The government’s response would explain “the standards governing private contractors in their transportation of immigration detainees, and whether private contractors actually comply with such standards,” according to the complaint.
The case is ACLU of Northern California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 3:18-cv-04105, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).