Detained immigrants sue over conditions, medical care

August 19, 2019 - 12:13 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Immigrants held in U.S. detention facilities filed a lawsuit Monday demanding adequate medical care and treatment and accommodations for disabilities.

In the suit filed by disability and civil rights advocates in U.S. District Court, immigrants said they're placed in isolation as punishment and denied recommended medical treatment and surgery. Some said they've been denied wheelchairs and a deaf detainee who communicates in American Sign Language said he has not been provided an interpreter.

Monica Porter, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates, said the problems harm disabled immigrants and threaten anyone in one of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's more than 50,000 detention beds who winds up getting sick or isolated from other detainees.

"Frankly, we haven't found a facility that does it well," she said.

A message seeking comment left for Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not immediately returned.

The lawsuit cites problems at facilities including a privately-run center in Adelanto California, and Teller County Jail in Colorado.

Advocates said they want to see changes in medical treatment and policies for the immigrants, who are fighting deportation.

One of the plaintiffs, Faour Abdullah Fraihat, has been detained in Adelanto for more than two years and lost vision in his left eye. While an off-site doctor recommended surgery in April, immigration authorities didn't provide it and he was told last month his vision couldn't be restored, according to the lawsuit.

Fraihat, 57, who has back and knee pain, said he was given a wheelchair but it was taken away after a month. For more than a year, he relied on officers to bring him food, the suit said.

He said he fears returning to Jordan because he was threatened after converting to Christianity.

Another detainee at the facility about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles said he was placed in segregation for a week after filing a grievance against an officer, the suit said.

"Our goal is to force the government to either comply with the law and ensure immigrants receive adequate medical and mental health care and disability accommodation, or end immigrant detention," said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for criminal justice reform at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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