CHICAGO -. The National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago (NIJC) reported yesterday that it has sued the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Al Jefferson County, Illinois, for poor detention conditions and lack of medical care to illegal immigrants.
According to a statement from the center, the lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of seven immigrants who were imprisoned in the county jail in November 2012.
In that month, dozens of undocumented detainees were evacuated from prison after the resignation of the entire nursing staff and the only doctor at that county jail, better known as Jefferson County Justice Center.
The lawsuit states that in the weeks prior to the nursing staff’s resignation, there were documented cases of tuberculosis, respiratory infections and fungi among detainees.
The documents that were submitted to a federal judge in Chicago questioned the validity of the contract that ICE has with Jefferson County Jail, and of all the "general constitutional violations" that occurred on-site.
According to Federal Law, ICE cannot detain anyone from facilities that have failed 2 consecutive audits, and in the case of Jefferson County, it had failed 4 inspections between 2006 and 2009.
"The contract contradicts the congressional mandate that establishes that immigrants must be detained in facilities that meet human rights standards," said Claudia Valenzuela, associate director of the litigation department for the NIJC.
In the statement that was released, it said that the lack of "adequate inspections by ICE" have facilitated the "deplorable conditions of detention."
"The Government should not confine people at facilities that do not provide basic care," she added.
The suit cites testimonies of immigrants who were in custody in Jefferson County in the fall of 2012, where the requests for medical care were “repeatedly ignored.”
"The lack of basic health care needs is being lived throughout prisons nationwide that are contracted by ICE. ICE should be held accountable for the welfare of people who are being held in custody," said the executive director of NJIC, Mary McCarthy.
The statement notes that 70 percent of the 420,000 people that were detained in 2012 by ICE were held in prisons with similar conditions like the Jefferson County Justice Center.