A day before Vice President Mike Pence visited McAllen to tour a Border Patrol processing center while a Democratic congressional delegation followed up with visits in McAllen and in Brownsville, an immigration attorney filed a lawsuit seeking the release of a man who had been held for weeks.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Romanian Gabriel Stanciu, through his next of friend Mihai Micleson, who is lawfully in the United States, is the sixth lawsuit filed on behalf of migrants held in Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol facilities since June.
Like the previous lawsuits, the litigation alleges that Stanciu has been held in overcrowded detention in unsanitary conditions where sickness is spreading because of the crammed conditions while being held without charges or access to attorneys.
Border Patrol has detained Stanciu since May 27.
However, like in the previous litigation, the day the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Brownsville seeking his release, Border Patrol transferred him to the Port Isabel Detention Center.
In a notice filed about Stanciu’s transfer, a government lawyer said the man was previously removed from the country in July 2017 and said that he did not claim fear of return.
His attorney, however, said in the lawsuit that Stanciu has a meritorious asylum claim.
The government has since granted a reasonable fear interview and the man is not at risk for imminent removal.
According to the government, Stanciu’s lawsuit is moot since he was transferred and alleged the federal court in Brownsville no longer has jurisdiction.
The government made the same argument in the case of Bryan Lopez Lopez, of El Salvador, and William Abel Santoy Son, of Guatemala, who sued through next of friends in early July.
And like Stanciu, those men were removed from Border Patrol custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody the same day a lawsuit seeking their release was filed.
In a response to the government’s notice of transfer, an immigration attorney said Lopez Lopez was held for 55 days by Border Patrol with the asylum procedure being “blatantly ignored.”
Santoy Son, an indigenous Guatemalan, was so traumatized by detention that he was virtually incoherent when an attorney spoke with him after he was transferred to ICE custody and had been on the verge of requesting return to Guatemala “as the only means of escape what amounted to intentional cruelty (torture??),” according to the filing.
The allegations in the lawsuits are partially corroborated by the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog, its Office of Inspector General, or DHS-OIG, which released a 13-page report July 2.
The report detailed observations the DHS-OIG made when visiting Border Patrol stations in McAllen, Weslaco and Brownsville in June and included photos of people packed into overcrowded holding cells.
The DHS-OIG said in the report that Border Patrol needs to address dangerous overcrowding and the prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.
Between April and June, Border Patrol has detained 129,756 migrants arriving in the Rio Grande Valley, most of which are family units — the most anywhere along the border.