SAN DIEGO — The ACLU Border Rights Center, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and Physicians for Human Rights said in a news release September 17, 2019, that they sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection demanding the agency revise and strengthen its policy and procedures to ensure prompt and appropriate medical care for individuals forced to go through substance withdrawal at ports of entry.

The letter states that CBP denied access to medical treatment to individuals, putting their lives in danger. There are reports of individuals undergoing forced detoxification without treatment. The letter cites the agency’s violation of its own policy and federal standards of medical care regarding detoxification for detainees who suffer withdrawal without adequate medical supervision. This adds to the risk of self-harm and is a clear indication of the need for better medical treatment overall, according to the letter.

The letter stated, “It is essential for the public health of our community to ensure that CBP employees with control over vulnerable individuals in their custody have sufficient instruction, training, and resources to be able to prevent the serious complications that accompany substance withdrawal and other chronic conditions.”

The organizations argue that:

•           Failure to provide accommodations to individuals undergoing detoxification violate federal regulations that protect people with disabilities, including those with substance use disorder.

•           CBP must have trained staff, medical professionals, and properly equipped on-site medical facilities.

•           CBP must have qualified medical staff to institute medical intake screening and treat detainees accordingly.

•           The agency should set a limit on the length of detention for individuals with serious medical conditions and accommodate access to medical care.

•           The agency must substantially reform its existing written policies to reflect a commitment to providing proper care for detained persons.

A copy of the letter can be found here:

Contact information: Imelda Mejia, ACLU of Texas, 346-299-6803,

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