A group of U.S. Citizens and undocumented immigrants filed a series of lawsuits on Tuesday claiming abuse by Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agents around the country.
Groups like Americans for Immigrant Justice and the American Immigration Council, who are representing some of the 10 plaintiffs along with other immigration advocacy groups, claim they collectively filed the lawsuit to outline a pattern of abuse they say is seen around across the country.
“Enforcement cannot come at the expense of civil rights,” said Melissa Crow, Legal Action Center at the American Immigration Council, an immigration advocacy organization representing one of the plaintiffs. Crow adds “these cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”
According to CBP’s spokeswoman, Jenny Burke, the agency does not respond to pending litigation.
“We do not tolerate misconduct or abuse within our ranks and we fully cooperate with all investigations of alleged unlawful conduct, on or off duty, by any of our CBP employees and contractors,” Burke explained in a statement.
Among the plaintiffs is a four-year-old U.S. citizen who was detained at John F. Kennedy airport while returning home from a vacation in Guatemala with her grandfather. According to the suit, after an agent found out the plaintiffs parents were undocumented while trying to reunite them at the airport, he refused to give the daughter to ‘illegals.’
The plaintiff returned to Guatemala alongside her grandfather, according to the lawsuit.
In a press conference another plaintiff, Lucy Rogers, 27, a U.S. Citizen and medical interpreter for immigrant farm workers says many Latino residents in her community near the U.S./Canada border are now living in fear of police officers.
“My experience was humiliating and intimidating experience,” Rogers says. “this is not what living in America should be about.”
Rogers says she was arrested under suspicion of human trafficking while transporting two of her clients, whom she says she didn’t know were undocumented at the time.
In one of the lawsuits, a group of undocumented immigrants allege that they were forced to stay in icy-cold detention centers, without beds or blankets.
New York, Texas and Ohio are among the states where the suits were filed.