Immigrants Sue U.S. Government, Illinois County Jail for Inhumane Detention Conditions and Neglectful Medical Care

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed a lawsuit against the officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Services (ICE) in Jefferson County, Illinois on behalf of seven immigrants who were held in the Jefferson County Justice Center under unsanitary conditions without adequate health care.

Since the resignation of all but one member of the facility’s medical staff, dozens of immigrants that were held in the facility were evacuated in November 2012. The NIJC has documented allegations of MRSA, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and skin funguses that befell the jail’s population during their stay. The lawsuit challenges the validity of ICE’s contract with Jefferson County as well as constitutional violations at the jail.  Under the law, ICE cannot detain people at facilities that do not pass specific inspections. Although the Jefferson County Justice Center failed ICE inspections for four consecutive years, immigrants were still held there. Also, the inspection that took place in 2009 was based on detention standards that have since been superseded and replaced with new standards. NIJC’s Mark Fleming and Chuck Roth released a statement saying, “The government cannot be allowed to confine people in facilities that are unable to provide for basic care and human rights.”

Immigrants who were held in ICE custody at Jefferson County were interviewed and say they were denied medical treatment and ignored, showers and restrooms contained mold and dirt, drinking water was brown, jail pods were poorly ventilated, jail uniforms were dirty and tattered, and the immigrants had no access to sunlight or outdoor recreation. “About 70 percent of the more than 420,000 men and women detained by ICE in fiscal year 2012 were held at state and local jails like Jefferson County Justice Center.” The number of immigrants who have gone through the jail system in Jefferson County paint a grim picture of the reality that ensues when ICE fails to exercise oversight of the detention system. NIJC Director Mary Meg McCarthy comments, ““We see similar egregious conditions and lack of concern for even the most basic health and sanitary measures at ICE-contracted jails throughout the country. ICE must be held accountable for the wellbeing of people in its custody.”  Most Missouri immigration detainees are also held in outstate county jails and prisons.

If you have a loved one in immigration detention or facing removal, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.