Immigration Groups Challenge Inhumane Conditions Inside U.S. Border Patrol Detention Facilities in Court

The trial follows a lawsuit filed in 2015 on behalf of people subjected to deplorable Border Patrol detention conditions across the Tucson sector

January 13, 2020

TUCSON—The trial in a legal challenge to the horrific conditions in U.S. Border Patrol's short-term detention facilities across the Tucson sector, filed in June 2015 by immigration groups, begins on Monday, Jan. 13 at the U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona.

The lawsuit, Doe v. Wolf (formerly known as Doe v. Kelly), was filed by the American Immigration Council, ACLU of Arizona, the National Immigration Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP. Months of investigation and interviews with detainees revealed unconstitutional conditions in detention facilities used by Border Patrol in the Tucson sector. Migrant men and women described appalling conditions including being detained in very cold, overcrowded, and filthy cells for extended periods of time, without access to beds, soap, showers, adequate meals and water, or medical care, in violation of constitutional standards and Border Patrol’s own policies.

“For over four years, we have been gathering evidence of the substandard conditions to which thousands of individuals have been subjected,” said Mary Kenney, directing attorney of litigation with the American Immigration Council. “We are looking forward to presenting this evidence to the judge and are seeking a permanent solution to these unconstitutional conditions.”

“For years, migrants in Border Patrol’s care have been subjected to inhumane, unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” said Alessandra Navidad, executive director for the ACLU of Arizona. “The criminalization of migrants, unconstitutional asylum policies and increase in the use of detention has only exacerbated the situation. It's past time Border Patrol be subject to greater accountability and oversight.”

“Our own government's treatment of migrants should shock everyone’s conscience,” said Alvaro Huerta, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “People — including pregnant women and young children — are fleeing violence only to be detained in the United States under conditions that put their health and safety at risk. This isn't just about toothbrushes or blankets. The absence of these basic necessities illustrates larger, longstanding problems within Border Patrol that have only intensified by this administration’s inhumane and harmful immigration policies. We are better than this. We must demand that our government treat people under its care with the dignity and respect that all human beings deserve.”

“Border Patrol detains some of the most vulnerable people in the world, including migrants fleeing horrific violence and persecution, under deplorable conditions,” said Bree Bernwanger, senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “Regardless of who is held in its custody, the constitution requires that the agency, at a minimum, provide for their basic human needs. We hope this case will ensure that in the future, Border Patrol upholds its constitutional duty to ensure that migrants in its custody are not punished simply for being migrants.”

“The Constitution protects civil detainees from being deprived of their basic human rights.  The conditions in these facilities are sickening,” said Colette Reiner Mayer, trial counsel from Morrison & Foerster LLP.   “We look forward to trying this case and reaching a resolution that will protect future detainees from enduring these unconstitutional conditions.  Detainees have suffered for far too long.  It has to stop.”  

The trial begins Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, and is expected to last nine days. Plaintiffs hope the trial will result in increased protections for people detained in Border Patrol facilities and permanently require the agency to comply with its constitutional obligations.

WHAT: The trial hearing in Doe v. Wolf. The plaintiffs’ legal team will challenge Border Patrol’s detention conditions in the Tucson sector.  

WHEN: Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 at 9:15 a.m.

WHERE: U.S. District Court of Tucson, 405 West Congress Street, Courtroom 6B, Tucson, AZ 85701.

More information about the lawsuit and the original complaint can be found here:



For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, 202-507-7526, [email protected]; Marcela Taracena, ACLU of Arizona, 602-773-6004, [email protected]; Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, 213-375-3149, [email protected]

Media Contact

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