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Is US Border Protection Torturing Immigrants? A Chilling Report. By Roger Algase

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In my December 12 post, I wrote that the use of torture by the US government may not be directly related to immigration. Based on an article in The Guardian which appeared the same day, shortly after my above comment was posted, I may have to correct that statement.

The Guardian
reports that there is an ongoing pattern of abuse of immigrants by the USCPB which is so serious that, after reading the article, one could well ask whether any difference between the mistreatment it describes and outright torture detailed in the Senate CIA report is purely semantic.

See, Freezing cells and sleep deprivation: the brutal conditions migrants still face after capture

This article is also subtitled:

In a week of outcry over the Senate's report on CIA torture, human rights groups say harsh treatment still meted out on the US border

http://theguardian.com/us-news/2014/...ep-deprivation

The article begins by describing the experience of a woman from Honduras who was caught by CBP agents shortly after crossing into Texas last May with her infant daughter and four other women:

"Peralta (not her real name) was put into a 15ft by 45ft concrete cell with about 30 other women from Central America who had made the dangerous and traumatic journey. Her clothes were still wet from crossing the river, but, according to the account she gave human rights researchers, CBP officers wouldn't let her change into the dry clothes she had ready in her backpack.

The cell was a 'cold box', she said, and she and her child shivered on the concrete floor. She reported losing sense of time, as there were no windows in the border station where they were being held.

She was detained in the border station for two days, by her estimation, then she was flown to the Tucson border station, where she was held for a further seven days. There she and her daughter were again put into a cell so cold that her lips chapped, she developed a cough and eventually contracted a fever that led to a brief hospitalization."

The article goes on to report that CBP's practice of holding immigrant detainees in bare, freezing cells is widespread:

"Of the 33 adult migrants who were interviewed in depth for the report after coming through the Tucson border stations between May and July, 94% complained that the bare concrete cells in which they were kept had ben too cold or even freezing. Each detainee was allowed only a single garment in which to sleep, with only a bare concrete floor to lie on."

In addition to the cold, sleep deprivation (one of the CIA torturers' favorite techniques, according to the Senate report) appears to be a common complaint among detainees as well:

"Many complained of sleep deprivation, having been disturbed by the cold, the lack of bedding, loud noises outside the cells, and having been woken up in the middle of the night by agents to sign release papers. Thirty of the 33 individuals in the survey said they had been unable to sleep because of the bright lights that were kept blazing inside the cells 24 hours a day.

The Guardian
reports that these are not isolated incidents:

"The experiences of Peralta and her fellow migrant detainees are not isolated. Immigration lawyers and human rights groups have long reported a pattern of alleged violations by CBP officers - a trend which, the organizations believe, suggests a systemic level of abuse designed to punish those who have illegally entered the US, intimidate them into waiving their rights and submitting to instant repatriation, and deter others who might follow them."

Nor, according to this article, are comparisons with the CIA torture alleged in the Senate report entirely out of place:

"In the week of the explosive Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA's interrogation of terror suspects under the Bush administration, parallels are being drawn with the abusive detention techniques still routinely practiced on US soil. Though the more recent reported abuses are nowhere near as grotesque as the torture revealed by the Senate report, they do amount, advocacy groups say, to systematic rights violations that incorporate some techniques also deployed in the CIA's now discredited rulebook, including sleep deprivation, disorientation and psychological abuse."

In one very important respect, the alleged CBP abuses against immigrants are worse than anything the CIA has been accused of; there are no allegations that the CIA tortured children.

But limiting abusive treatment to adults is apparently not in the CBP's "rulebook" when dealing with immigrants, according to The Guardian:

"Among those subjected to harsh treatment, the group has found, are numerous migrant children. Children have described temperatures in the cells that turned their lips blue and made their fingers numb."


All in all, a chilling report - in more than one sense of the word.

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Updated 12-13-2014 at 08:13 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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