A group of undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens has filed a group of lawsuits claiming they had been abused by Border Patrol and Customs agents. The Tuesday filings said the agents had forced the people to sit in holding cells that were freezing for days in the southern part of Texas.
The lawsuits, which an advocacy grouped filed on behalf of the 10 plaintiffs, allege an abuse pattern by the agents from the Border Patrol that has increased due to their ranks growing from only 4,000 agents during 1993 to over 21,000 during 2012.
The advocacy group said it felt the cases were not isolated ones and exemplifies cultural impunity that has taken hold in the Border Patrol. A spokesperson for the border patrol said the agency could not comment on litigation that was pending but stressed the integrity and honor in the agency’s mission.
One case is on behalf of four plaintiffs who crossed the border illegally and were stopped and detained by agents. The suit alleges that the four – three women and one man – were put into holding cells described by the border agents as the “hielera” or the icebox.
One of the lawyers representing the immigrants, Joseph Anderson, said the plaintiffs had to stay inside the cell for also long as six days prior to being sent to other detention centers to await proceedings to be deported. He said the cells were without a toilet and a bed and that his client’s lips and fingers turned blue and they suffered cracks in their skin due to the cold.
One plaintiff, a woman who is 63, said she was required to seat in the rear seat of a vehicle for eight hours without being fed or given water. Another plaintiff a 4-year old who was not allowed back into the U.S. at a New York airport after a trip to Guatemala because authorities said her parents were undocumented immigrants.