MoFo News Item

Federal Court Order Finds Conditions in Customs and Border Protection Detention Facilities Unconstitutional

Federal Court for the District of Arizona orders Tucson Sector CBP to meet migrants’ basic human needs following 48 hours from book-in time

20 Feb 2020

On February 19, 2020, a federal court ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to overhaul the way the agency detains people in its custody in the Tucson Sector in Arizona. The court found that the conditions in CBP holding cells, especially those that preclude sleep over several nights, are presumptively punitive and violate the U.S. Constitution.

This is the latest turn in a legal challenge, Doe v. Wolf, filed in June 2015 by the American Immigration Council, ACLU of Arizona, the National Immigration Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Morrison & Foerster.

The February 19, 2020, court order enjoins CBP from holding detainees longer than 48 hours “unless and until CBP can provide conditions of confinement that meet detainees’ basic human needs for sleeping in a bed with a blanket, a shower, food that meets acceptable dietary standards, potable water, and medical assessment performed by a medical professional.”

Morrison & Foerster partner Colette Reiner Mayer commented: “This is an excellent outcome and we look forward to its implementation. With the court’s order we have secured a permanent solution and hopefully the sickening conditions in these facilities will improve. After years of collecting evidence and preparing and trying this case, the border detention facilities will no longer be allowed to violate the Constitution. Civil detainees in Border Patrol stations have suffered for too long, and this decision will pave the way for systemic change across the country.”

The MoFo pro bono trial team was led by Litigation partners Colette Reiner Mayer and Jack Londen, and included Litigation associates Pieter de Ganon, John Douglass, and Aaron Bray, along with numerous former associates over the last five years.

Read the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law and judgment, and more information about the Doe v. Wolf lawsuit. Attorneys involved in the case and individuals formerly detained by CBP in the Tucson Sector held a telephonic press briefing following the court order. A recording of the briefing is available.

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