A group of U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants filed a series of lawsuits on Tuesday claiming they were abused by Customs and Border Protection agents, including being forced to sit in freezing holding cells for days in southern Texas, reports USA Today. The suits, filed by advocacy groups on behalf of 10 plaintiffs, allege a pattern of abuse by Border Patrol agents that has increased as their ranks have grown from just over 4,000 in 1993 to more than 21,000 in 2012. “I don’t think these are isolated cases,” said Melissa Crow, who is representing one of the plaintiffs. “The spectrum of cases we’re presenting exemplifies the culture of impunity that has taken hold at CBP.”
Agency spokeswoman Jenny Burke said CBP does not comment on pending litigation but said they stress “honor and integrity” in every aspect of their mission. One of the cases was filed on behalf of four people who were illegally crossing the border and detained by Border Patrol agents. The suit claims that the four — one man and three women — were placed in a holding cell described by CBP agents as the “hielera,” or “icebox.” Joseph Anderson, a lawyer representing the immigrants and the director of litigation for Americans for Immigrant Justice, said they were forced to stay in the cell for up to six days before they were shipped to other facilities to await deportation proceedings.