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May 31, 2019

Eludio Sanchez Jailed Without Charges and Only a Minutes-long Meeting with Lawyer

RIVERSIDE — On May 17, auto mechanic Eludio Sanchez was speaking to his wife by cell phone when he was pulled over by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and arrested.

His family has not heard from his since. They likely wouldn't have even known he had been stopped if he hadn't been on the phone with his wife when he was taken.

To this date, Sanchez has not been charged with any infraction. And an attorney hired by his family was not permitted any access to Sanchez when she went to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta where he is being held.

So far, his attorney has been granted only a single, four-minute phone call with her client. Otherwise, he has not been allowed any contact with the outside world.

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed a court action in United States District Court in Riverside on behalf of Sanchez, demanding his immediate release. This petition for writ of habeas corpus states that the government’s actions to hold him without charges and with only a brief, highly restricted contact with his attorney violate the due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

In addition, Sanchez — who lives in Wildomar with his wife and three children — is being held in a facility that, by the Border Patrol's own admission, is not designated for an overnight stay let alone two weeks. Conditions in these facilities are deplorable. The Border Patrol notoriously keeps the temperature so low that these stations have been dubbed "hieleras" ("freezers"); they are not equipped with beds because they are only intended to be used as temporary holding cells, requiring people to sleep on the floor or metal benches; there is scant access to showers and hygiene products; and a lack of adequate food and medical care is a routine concern.

"Imprisoning someone incommunicado and without charges is categorically unacceptable and an anathema to our system of liberty," said ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Eva Bitrán. "These constitutional violations are made even worse by the horrifying conditions of confinement in Border Patrol holding facilities."

If Sanchez is not released, the ACLU SoCal petition asks to allow him in-person confidential attorney visits, the prompt issuing of charges if any, and a transfer to more suitable facility if he is to be continually held.

It has become apparent that the holding of detainees under inhumane conditions in Border Patrol stations for days or weeks has become all too common. The attorney hired by the family, Mercedes Castillo, reported that during her brief phone call with her client she could hear others held in the facility howling in despair.

"We will not stay silent as the Trump administration violates fundamental constitutional rights because of a crisis of its own making," Bitrán said.

An article published May 30 in the Washington Post found that nearly 2,000 children were being held in Border Patrol facilities beyond a 72-hour limit fixed by federal law and court orders.

And a CNN report today found that a Border Patrol processing center in El Paso, Texas with a maximum capacity of 125 people had as many as 900 on a recent day, with some people standing on toilets to get breathing space.

Read the court filing here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/aclu_socal_sanchez_20190531_petition_habeas_corpus.pdf

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