Most Angelenos never see the Brezhnevian Federal Building on Los Angeles Street. Fewer still have had a reason to brave the long security line to get inside, much less to visit its underground detention center. The latter's six holding pens, known, in affectionate governmentspeak as "B-18," are where suspected illegal immigrants are held before and after their hearings before upstairs magistrates. The spartan detention area would be challenging enough for a few detainees who were being kept for brief periods -- conditions for which the center was designed; for the packed crowds who have been routinely held for long periods (sometimes for 20 hours), it is a Dantesque hell.
Last April the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center sued those responsible for B-18's operation -- Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General Eric Holder and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Today, reports the Associated Press, the two sides settled on a plan to clean up B-18.
"The federal court agreement," AP says, "restricts detainees at the facility to 12
hours at a stretch except under unusual circumstances such as epidemics
or natural disasters. It requires that they be provided with soap,
access to attorneys and writing materials for those who need to prepare
Although many of B-18's more outrageous features were reportedly
addressed after the lawsuit was first filed, today the ACLU released a
statement charging that "Immigrants were crowded into cells, sometimes
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waiting for hours without room to sit down. Some had not been able to
shower, brush their teeth, or change their clothes in weeks. Women
asking for sanitary napkins were often ignored, and often forced to
sleep on the floor for several days in a row."