Cells That Are Too Small, Dirty, and Kept So Cold They’ve Earned the Nickname Hieleras / by Karie Luidens


Why Are Immigration Detention Facilities So Cold?

There’s a reason Spanish-speaking detainees call them “hieleras.”

JULY 16, 2014
Mother Jones

If you’ve been following the immigration crisis at the Mexican border, you’ve probably heard about these freezing temperatures that migrants endure at border detention facilities. Migrants—especially unaccompanied kids—allege suffering a lot of harm at the hands of CBP agents: sexual assaultbeatingsa lack of basic toiletries. But few forms of abuse are more pervasive than the hielera—the Spanish word for “icebox” that detainees and guards alike use to describe CBP’s frigid holding cells.

A First Look Inside Border Patrol's 'Iceboxes'

Images unsealed by a U.S. federal court in Tucson, Arizona, show migrants crammed into holding cells and huddling together for warmth.

AUG 19, 2016
The Atlantic

For years human- and immigrants-rights advocacy groups have accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) of holding people who illegally crossed the Southwest border in processing-facility cells that are too small, dirty, and kept so cold the cells have earned the nickname hieleras, or iceboxes.

The problem has always been that few people besides those held inside and CBP officers have seen the cells. But this week, for the first time, CBP released still images taken from video monitors in the cells. […]

These CBP holdings cells are meant to house migrants for short periods, no more than 12 hours, […but a recent report] shows the average stay ranged from 65 hours to 104 hours.

The Iceboxes at the Border

By Opheli Garcia Lawler
DEC. 26, 2018
The Cut

According to a February 2018 report from the Human Rights Watch, the conditions in the detention run by CBP centers are abysmal. In addition to the frigid temperatures, migrants are reportedly subjected to intense overcrowding, forced to sleep on concrete floors, and denied showers, soap, and toothpaste. The first photos of a hielera were only publicly released in 2016; they show over a dozen people sharing a tiny, concrete room in a Tucson facility, huddled under foil blankets.

“They took us to a room that was cold and gave us aluminum blankets,” a Guatemalan woman who had been held in an Arizona detention center in 2017 told HRW. “There were no mats. We slept on the bare floor. It was cold, really cold.”