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Unknown Parties v. Nielsen

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 15, 2019

Unknown Parties, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Kirstjen M Nielsen, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONORABLE DAVID C. BURY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Procedural History

         On November 18, 2016, this Court issued a preliminary injunction in this class action lawsuit brought by civil detainees, being held pursuant to civil immigration laws, against Defendants the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Commissioner of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Chief of CBP, and the Arizona Joint Field Command and Chief Patrol Agent-Tucson Sector. This Court found that the Plaintiffs established they were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims, were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tipped in their favor, and the injunction was in the public interest. The Court ordered the Defendants to immediately comply with CBP's 2008 Hold Rooms and Short Term Custody Policy (2008 Policy) and the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS) standards and that the standard requiring clean bedding includes mats for detentions exceeding 12 hours.

         Both parties appealed. The Defendants argued that this Court misapprehended Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979) and the injunction was too rigid and unduly burdensome. Plaintiffs argued that the Court should have required Defendants to provide beds with mattresses, showers, and medical care provided by medical professionals. On March 21, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of the preliminary injunction.

         There has been no assertion of non-compliance, therefore, this has been the status quo since November 18, 2016. Discovery is closed, and Plaintiffs seek partial summary judgment on the issue of beds.

         Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         According to Plaintiffs:

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) detains tens of thousands of people each year in the Tucson Sector and holds them in conditions that violate the Constitution. Men, women, and children are jammed together in crowded hold room cells and forced to lie on soiled, cold concrete floors, next to toilets and trash. Surveillance video shows people being repeatedly stepped over as others make their way to and from the toilets. These degrading and unsanitary conditions deprive Class Members of their constitutional right to sleep.

(Ps MPSJ (Doc. 377) at 3.)

         According to the Plaintiffs, “the law is clear: civil pretrial detainees must be given beds or mattresses raised off of the floor if they are held for any period requiring sleep. Anything less, including floor mats, is a violation of their Fifth Amendment Due Process rights.” Id.

         Providing mats has not remedied the sanitation and overcrowding concerns that existed before the preliminary injunction because the mats are crammed together on the same unsanitary floors, often encroaching into the toilet stall areas and without sufficient walking space so that detainees are forced to walk on and over the floor mats. Id. at 4. The Plaintiffs tender evidence that cell occupancy rates have been recalculated based on the use of floor mats and submit pictures taken on December 24, 2016, showing a man stepping over and on floor mats as he makes his way to the toilet area in a holding cell. Id. at Ex. 15, see also Ex. 21 (12/12/16 picture reflecting very crowded conditions causing mats to be crammed together, walked on, and placed in toilet stall areas). Other pictures taken on March 6, 2017, reflect an extremely crowded holding cell with at least one floor mat placed inside a toilet stall. Id. at Ex. 20.

         Plaintiffs tender statistics which reflect that from January 2015 through February 2018, the average length of detention in CBP stations was 26 hours broken down as follows: 85.5% lasting longer than 12 hours, 43.6% lasting longer than 24 hours, 19.9% lasting longer than 36 hours, and 8.3% lasting longer than 48 hours. (Ps' MPSJ (Doc. 377) at 5.)

         Plaintiffs submit, it cannot be disputed that the 48-hour average time for processing detainees at the CBP stations as a matter of necessity requires the vast majority of detainees to lie down and sleep at these CBP stations. Likewise, Plaintiffs argue it is undisputed that the use of floor mats in CBP stations has led to cramming as many mats on the floor as possible forcing detainees to step on and over mats and to lie near toilets. Therefore, Plaintiffs argue there are no disputed facts precluding partial summary judgment on their claim that civil detainees are constitutionally entitled to beds for these detentions, which span an amount of time in which sleep is necessary. According to the Plaintiffs, the use of floor mats in CBP stations leads to conditions condemned in Union County Jail Inmates v. Di Buono, 713 F.2d 984, 993 n. 11 (3rd Cir. 1983), as “reprehensible and dehumanizing.” Id. at 997-998.

         In addition to Union County Jail, Plaintiffs rely on Thompson v. City of Los Angeles,885 F.2d 1439 (9th Cir. 1989), overruled on other grounds by Bull v. San Francisco,595 F.3d 964, 977 (9th Cir. 2010); Anela v. City of Wildwood,790 F.2d 1063 (3rd Cir. 1986), and Lareau v. Manson, 651 F.2d 96, 105 (2nd Cir. 1981). This Court, likewise, relied on these cases when it issued the preliminary injunction. See also (MPSJ (Doc. 377) at 8 (citing Vazquez v. Gray, 523 F.Supp. 1359 ...


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