• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Immigrants sue ICE over L.A. detentions

April 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Startling accusations Thursday from undocumented immigrants formerly held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a downtown Los Angeles facility intended as a temporary lockup. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling the conditions there "barbaric" and Thursday announced a lawsuit against the federal agency.

Russian immigrant Alla Suvorova says she was denied the basic necessities -- clean clothes, soap, even sanitary napkins -- in detention for two weeks.

Abelardo Chavez-Flores says he couldn't even communicate with his children for a month and a half, or change clothes.

Both were arrested on immigration violations last year and detained in a basement here in the Downtown Los Angeles federal building. There are six or seven rooms setup for detention for, at most, 12 hours.

"They just put you in a room which is really dirty, not able to wash your hands, nothing, nothing," said plaintiff Alla Suvorvova.

"Some days you could not sit or even move because there were more than a hundred people in the cell," said Abelaro Chaves-Flores.

Chavez-Flores is charged with immigration violations. Suvorova is charged with a visa violation.

Both were among the thousands of arrested immigrants brought to the basement detention center known as "B-18" for processing. The lawsuit alleges that sometimes they spend the night.

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other legal organizations charges that ICE violated law with B-18.

They say arrested immigrants are either kept in the detention facility or shuttled to jails for a few hours at night, then back to B-18 in the morning with no basic services. It lasts for weeks at a time.

"Right here in our very midst, immigration imprisons hundreds of immigrants in squalid, barbaric and barely legal conditions," said ACLU attorney Marisol Arihuela.

In a statement from ICE, a spokeswoman says: "ICE does not comment on pending litigation. ICE and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are committed to providing secure, safe and humane treatment for all detainees."

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama have promised a review of the nation's immigration policies and detention practices.

Hundreds of detained immigrants have followed Suvorova and Chavez Flores. Thousands have preceded them in B-18.

"The detainees at B-18 have been rendered ghosts in a shadow system," said Karen Tumlin, National Immigration Law Center.

Eyewitness News asked if we could shoot inside the detention center Thursday, and we were told no, not for a few days as well, because of security.

The lawsuit does not seek to close the detention facility. The plaintiffs just want to clean it up


MORE LOCAL HEADLINES FROM LOS ANGELES

USEFUL LINKS:
SEND TIP || REPORT TYPO || TWEET @abc7 ||  WIDGET


Load Comments