Thursday, September 17, 2009

Settlement Aids Detainees in Los Angeles

Published: September 16, 2009
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal immigration
officials have settled a lawsuit that claimed people suspected of being illegal
immigrants were kept in “barbaric” conditions in a downtown Los Angeles
detention center, civil rights groups announced Wednesday.
The federal court
agreement restricts detention at the facility to 12 hours at a stretch except
under unusual circumstances like epidemics or natural disasters. It requires
that detainees be provided with soap, access to lawyers and writing materials
for those who need to prepare legal documents.
The agreement, which applies
only to the downtown facility and runs until June of next year, “restores
detainees’ dignity and their right to due process,” said Ahilan T. Arulanantham,
director of immigrants’ rights and national security for the American Civil
Liberties Union of Southern California. “It is one step, but an important one,
in correcting our severely broken immigration detention system
The A.C.L.U., the National Immigration Law Center and a private
law firm claimed that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency
maintained overcrowded and squalid conditions in B-18, a temporary holding
center in the basement of a downtown federal building.
But a statement from
the groups said many of the problems were corrected after the lawsuit was filed
in April.
Detainees have included illegal immigrants, others who have
overstayed visas, felons fighting deportation after completing prison terms and
some who have pending claims for political asylum.
The lawsuit asserted that
B-18 has held 200 or more people at a time. Immigrants are not supposed to be
held at the detainee center for more than 12 consecutive hours because it has no
beds. The lawsuit contended that some detainees were held for 20 hours or more,
slept on the floor and drank from a sink because there was no other water

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