New York’s Largest Immigrant Detention Center Inflicts Abuse In Secret

BFDF is the largest immigration detention center in New York and has faced multiple allegations of dangerous denials of necessary medical care, retaliatory use of solitary confinement for speaking out about unsafe conditions, physical abuse and mistreatment, and racial discrimination. BFDF is also in court facing allegations over abusive labor practices that force detained people to work manual labor for $1 a day in commissary credit.

This lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act seeks information on policies and practices that will form the basis of human rights reporting on abusive conditions of confinement and additional lawsuits seeking to enjoin abusive practices.

Why is this a key case?

The U.S. government detains over 30,000 people a day in immigration detention using a nationwide network of remote private prisons and jails isolated from legal assistance groups. The U.S. government’s own investigators describe conditions of confinement in immigration detention as “barbaric” and “negligent.” And people imprisoned in U.S. immigration detention have suffered grave physical and psychological harms, including torture and death.

Advocacy and litigation to stop these abuses relies on the free flow of information from detention centers, but the government intentionally obscures its operating practices to shield itself from accountability.

How is RFK Human Rights supporting?

RFK Human Rights, co-counseling with Justice Action Center, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, represents Justice for Migrant Families and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York in their request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and litigation in federal district court to compel the government’s compliance with FOIA.

In April 2023, the district court ordered the government to submit a discovery plan that sets forth the custodians and locations of documents that will be searched and the search terms that will be used to identify documents responsive to the FOIA request. The court further ordered the government to provide plaintiffs with monthly updates to the discovery plan, setting a December 2023 deadline for a status report to the Court.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Robert F. Kennedy Hum. Rts. v. U.S. Immigr. & Customs Enf’t, No. 22-CV-929, 2023 WL 3075955 (W.D.N.Y. Apr. 25, 2023)

Month/Year of filing

December 2022

Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

U.S. Federal District Court, Western District of New York

Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (or found to have been violated)

Freedom of Information Act

Procedural stage



Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Justice Action Center, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP