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Unconstitutional Conditions in CBP Detention Facilities Challenged in Class Action Lawsuit

Last Updated: 
Tue, Dec 08, 2015

Doe v. Johnson, No. 15-00250 (D. Ariz. filed June 8, 2015)

Immigrant rights groups have filed a class-action lawsuit challenging detention conditions in CBP (Customs and Border Protection) detention facilities. The complaint alleges that Tucson Sector Border Patrol holds men, women, and children in freezing, overcrowded, and filthy cells for days at a time in violation of the U.S. Constitution and CBP’s own policies. Detained individuals are stripped of outer layers of clothing and forced to suffer in brutally cold temperatures; deprived of beds, bedding, and sleep; denied adequate food, water, medicine and medical care, and basic sanitation and hygiene items such as soap, sufficient toilet paper, sanitary napkins, diapers, and showers; and held virtually incommunicado in these conditions for days. 

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The American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster LLP have filed suit on behalf of two women detained in the Tucson Border Patrol Station as well as a Tucson man detained twice in that facility. All Plaintiffs consistently recount days of mistreatment and neglect during their time in Border Patrol holding cells. Plaintiffs’ accounts are fully consistent with accounts of the many former detainees who signed declarations describing their confinement in holding cells within the Tucson Sector. Plaintiffs allege that conditions in all of the Tucson Sector Border Patrol facilities violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act and seek to compel the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol to bring its detention facilities in line with Constitutional standards, including limiting the time a person may be detained in holding cells to a few hours, providing adequate food, water, and medical care, beds and bedding, access to showers and hygiene supplies, and maintaining appropriate capacity limits and temperature controls, among other reforms.

After filing the lawsuit and the motion for class certification, Plaintiffs filed and won a motion for expedited discovery. As a result, Plaintiffs’ experts were permitted to visit specific Tucson Border Patrol Stations and gather evidence and Defendants were required to produce certain information about their detention practices. When Defendants destroyed some video recordings in violation of the court’s order, the court issued sanctions against Defendants, requiring Defendants to immediately produce video recordings and other data to Plaintiffs. On December 7, based on analysis of large amounts of evidence produced through the expedited discovery process, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt Defendants’ unlawful detention practices while the lawsuit continues.