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ACLU files lawsuit for immigration detainees seeking medical care

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Wednesday filed a class action lawsuit [petition, PDF; press release] against federal immigration officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF), and the Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS) [official websites], seeking injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of immigration detainees who allege that inadequate medical and mental health care at the SDCF have caused "unnecessary suffering [and] avoidable death." The complaint names eleven detainees who have either faced month-long delays or have been outright denied treatment for medical conditions that have resulted in permanent disfigurement. The ACLU alleges that the "incompetence and indifference" of immigration authorities in facilitating necessary medical care violates the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against "unnecessary pain and suffering." ACLU National Prison Project [advocacy website] staff attorney Tom Jawetz described the level of care as "horrific, and in stark contrast to American values."

The ACLU says the DIHS's "Covered Services Package" unduly delays treatment as medical staff must obtain affirmative approval from off-site DIHS officials in the form of "medically necessary referrals before treating detainees." The policy, the ACLU says, is rooted in a often-false assumption that immigration detainees are held for relatively short periods of time, while in actual practice, "many detainees spend months or years" waiting for a resolution of their case. The SDCF is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, Inc. (CCA) [corporate website], the largest private, for-profit provider of detention and corrections services in the United States. AP has more.

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