Never-before-released data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency revealed that some immigrants detained in South Texas were being held in freezing cells called hieleras, or “iceboxes,” without beds.
Guillermo Cantor, deputy director of research for the nonpartisan American Immigration Council, is the author of the report based upon the data.
The Council obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act request. Cantor says this report focuses on the centers in the Rio Grande Valley but these conditions have been reported in other regions as well, including facilities in Tucson, Arizona.
“These are facilities that are not meant to hold people for a long period of time,” he says. “The facilities are not equipped for sleeping, they’re not equipped for overnight stay and they don’t even have enough space to hold as many people as they hold right now.”
According to Cantor, the centers are meant for one-day detentions and if detainees want to sleep, they must lie down on the floor.
“Many of the people that were interviewed reported that they didn’t even have space to lie down on the floor because it was so crowded,” he says.
“This is not new,” he says. “We have now solid data from the government to show how long people are staying, as well as survey data that show pretty much everyone who has been detained here has experienced this situation.”
Temperatures are consistently low, which is “problematic” for people detained for several days without proper clothing, Cantor says. Lawsuits have been filed, but Cantor says they hear that it’s still happening.
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.