Migrants held by US authorities at a detention center in rural New Mexico have faced retaliation rather than help after denouncing unsanitary conditions in jail hired by the government, a coalition of civil rights groups said Wednesday.
A public letter signed this week by at least a dozen immigrants within the Torrance County Detention Center he describes broken pipes, insect infestations, insufficient access to medical care, and rationed drinking water bottles.
A companion complaint Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights documents retaliation, including restrictions on access to legal representation and a trumped-up charge of misconduct against an immigrant under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
The new complaint adds to concerns raised in August by the coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Innovation Law Lab, the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center and El-based Justice for Our Neighbors. Paso, Texas, building on information from interviews with dozens of immigrants at the center.
The Torrance County Detention Center, privately operated by CoreCivic, is one of 130 detention centers used by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold migrants while their immigration cases are reviewed, though in many cases it allows people to remain in supervised release.
Representatives from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately return messages seeking comment. However, officials from CoreCivic disputed the accusations and said the immigrants were making false claims about conditions in the holding cell.
Matthew Davio, a spokesman for CoreCivic, said the detention center is closely monitored by ICE and must undergo regular reviews and audits to ensure an adequate standard of living for all detainees. He also said that ICE employs a compliance officer to ensure that the detention center adheres to the agency’s strict standards and policies.
Orlando de los Santos Evangelista, a construction worker from the Dominican Republic The 39-year-old told The Associated Press on Thursday that he stopped eating Monday with five other inmates to protest conditions. He said he reluctantly ate Wednesday after jail officials threatened to force-feed inmates through a tube.
Jail officials said Thursday that no one had skipped a meal.
De Los Santos said detainees also fear being placed in a solitary cell he called “the hole.” He said that the pdetention center halls smell like feces and that water enters his bedroom through a broken window, soaking his bed and immigration paperwork.
The Dominican citizen said that arrived in the US in June and was shocked that he was transferred to a prison-like facility.
″The conditions are inhumane. I have suffered verbal abuse and psychological torture,” she said. “We ask you to listen to us.”
In March, a government watchdog cited conditions unsafe and unhealthy downtown of detention and suggested that all the people detained there should be removed and transferred to another place.
Those findings by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security were based on an unannounced inspection in February. The findings were disputed by CoreCivic and ICE.
Most recently, a 23-year-old Brazilian citizen detained at the Torrance County Detention Center was found unconscious by staff on August 17 and died several days later at a hospital in Albuquerque. The death is under review by ICE, while the ACLU says it appears to be related to a suicide attempt.