Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against migrant detention facilities on July 2, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Lawsuit on Behalf of 55,000 Migrants Accuses Trump Administration of Torture in ICE Detention Centers

"Tens of thousands have suffered as a result of the federal government's abject failure to provide basic medical care. More will suffer, and more will die, without court intervention."

Jake Johnson

A class-action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Monday on behalf of 55,000 detainees accuses the Trump administration of systematically denying adequate food, medicine, and other basic necessities to migrants in ICE facilities nationwide.

The suit alleges that the widespread mistreatment and brutal conditions inside the Trump administration's detention centers amount to torture and have driven some asylum-seekers to "accept deportation out of a desperate desire to escape."

"The atrocious conditions in immigrant detention are an open secret," said Tim Fox, co-executive director at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center, one of several advocacy groups that joined the suit.

The lawsuit details the horrific experiences of a number of detained immigrants, including some with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

As the Guardian reported:

Melvin Murillo Hernandez suffered allergic reactions so bad he had to be hospitalized four times. Martín Muñoz had no access to insulin for ten long days. Denied a wheelchair, Faour Abdallah Fraihat was unable to get to the cafeteria...

The plaintiffs, who live with conditions ranging from cerebral palsy and bipolar disorder to blindness and schizophrenia, accuse the US government of denying jailed migrants food, medicine, surgeries, and the most basic accommodations for disabilities.

The suit filed in Los Angeles on Monday outlines individual experiences at eight different facilities, but immigration lawyers say the mistreatment is representative of systemic problems that affect tens of thousands of people. The complaint comes as the Trump administration escalates its efforts to make it harder for asylum seekers and migrants from certain countries to come to the U.S.

Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, noted in a statement that conditions in ICE facilities are often deadly and likely to get worse as the Trump administration rapidly expands its detention dragnet.

"This administration's horrific mistreatment of immigrants is not limited to individuals at the border," said Graybill. "The fact that immigrant detention is supposed to be civil, and not punitive, is a distinction without a difference when it comes to how detained immigrants are treated."

"At least 26 people have died [in ICE custody] since Trump took office," Graybill added, "and tens of thousands have suffered as a result of the federal government's abject failure to provide basic medical care at the facilities where taxpayers are spending billions to detain immigrants. More will suffer, and more will die, without court intervention."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden Urged to Sign Executive Order Guaranteeing Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave

After the president brokered a compulsory contract without a single paid day off for illness, one labor advocate implored him to "put up or shut up about how you really want them to have sick leave!"

Brett Wilkins ·


Campaigners Demand Deep Cuts to Plastic Production as Global Treaty Negotiations Ramp Up

"The scale of the problem is mind-boggling," said one advocate. "Plastic is in our blood. It's in fetuses. It's really encroaching on every aspect of human existence."

Julia Conley ·


Putting 'Profits Over People', Senate Rejects Paid Sick Leave for Rail Workers

"Senate Republicans and Joe Manchin have yet AGAIN failed working Americans by voting down seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers," lamented Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Brett Wilkins ·


'We Must Cancel Student Debt,' Activists Argue as SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Case in February

"The right-tilted Supreme Court now holds in the balance relief for millions of hardworking Americans," said one campaigner. "It would be a giant loss for the economy if justices rule in favor of the special interests."

Jessica Corbett ·


A Labor Revolt Is Brewing... Inside the National Labor Relations Board

"From Congress, we demand funds, not furloughs," says the NLRB union. "From NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, we demand collaboration, not coercion."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo