Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed a lawsuit against officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Jefferson County, Illinois, on behalf of seven immigrants who were held at the Jefferson County Justice Center under unsanitary conditions and with inadequate health care.
The lawsuit followed ICE’s evacuation of dozens of immigrants from the facility in November 2012, when all but one member of the facility’s medical staff had resigned or tendered their resignation, including the jail’s only doctor. NIJC has since documented reports of MRSA, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and skin funguses which occurred among the jail’s ICE populations in the weeks leading up to the resignations and evacuation.
The lawsuit challenged the validity of ICE’s contract with Jefferson County, as well as widespread constitutional violations at the jail. Under federal law, ICE cannot detain people at facilities that are found to be “deficient” on two consecutive inspections. But even though Jefferson County Justice Center failed ICE inspections in four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009, ICE signed a contract and began to house immigrants there in 2009. Furthermore, the inspections that have taken place since 2009 were based on detention standards that that have been superseded.
Immigrants who were held in ICE custody at Jefferson County during fall 2012 paint a grim picture: requests for medical treatment were repeatedly ignored, showers and restrooms were crusted with mold, drinking water was brown and putrid, jail pods were poorly ventilated, jail uniforms were tattered and soiled, and immigrants had no outdoor recreation or meaningful access to sunlight.
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.
In reaction to NIJC's lawsuit, ICE has delayed indefinitely the return of any immigrant detainees to the Jefferson County facility until a thorough inspection of the facility can be conducted. Accordingly, the district court dismissed our lawsuit for lack of standing. To date, the principal objective of the lawsuit has been achieved, as immigrant detainees will not be returned to Jefferson County. With the assistance of pro bono counsel, we sent a letter to ICE authorities detailing the on-going concerns with the Jefferson County facility and continue to monitor the situation to ensure that immigrant detainees are not returned to Jefferson County.
Download the complaint and exibits in Padron et al. v. ICE et al.: