May 15, 2019: ICE enters an Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with Torrance County, New Mexico to detain migrants at the Torrance County Detention Facility (Torrance). This will allow Torrance–a prison that had been previously shuttered–to reopen.
October 2019: Torrance County signs a Management Agreement with CoreCivic, a private prison company that owns Torrance. This arrangement allows Torrance County to pass off its obligations under the IGSA to CoreCivic.
May 11, 2020: Asylum seekers detained at Torrance begin a peaceful hunger strike regarding prison conditions and the facility’s COVID-19 response, asking for formalized social distancing measures, personal protective equipment, regular access to testing, and updates on the spread of the virus.
May 14, 2020: Dozens of CoreCivic guards charge into the dorm housing the hunger strikers. They are wearing gas masks and shields, blocking the exits, and forcing all detained people to stand in one corner. They use multiple cans of industrial-grade pepper spray in the unventilated room on the defenseless asylum seekers, who scream and claw at their eyes, neck, and skin. Multiple asylum seekers fall unconscious, but the medical team refuses to enter the room because the guards are unsuccessful in decontaminating it. The asylum seekers are all placed in solitary confinement, where two attempt suicide. Around this time, Torrance also confirms that it has seen its first COVID-19 case.
July 27-30, 2020: ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight (ODO) conducts a Congressionally-mandated inspection of Torrance and finds 6 operational deficiencies–3 deficiencies related to security (including solitary confinement) and 3 related to medical care of detained people.
September 29-October 1, 2020: On behalf of ICE, the Nakamoto Group conducts its first annual inspection of Torrance, rating it “Meets Standards.” The Nakamoto Group, which received over $55 million in ICE contracts from 2007-2019, has previously come under fire for its lax inspection procedures and perceived deference to ICE. It is known to draw more favorable conclusions on ICE facilities than the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
November 30-December 3, 2020: Another ICE ODO inspection of Torrance finds 3 operational deficiencies. Among these deficiencies, medical staff failed to note whether a detained person had been diagnosed with a mental health condition before that person was placed in solitary confinement.
December 21, 2020: ICE issues a Contract Discrepancy Report that reduces monthly Torrance invoices given unsatisfactory operational performance by CoreCivic. In particular, “facility medical staffing is not in line with the agreed upon contractual staffing plan and the facility has critical medical staffing shortages. It has also been discovered that the Chief Medical Officer has not been dedicated to the [Torrance] contract and has been supporting multiple facilities at the same time, which has resulted in very limited coverage.”
May 3-7, 2021: ICE ODO inspects Torrance for the first time since late 2020 and finds 9 operational deficiencies related to security, food service, and medical care.
July 27-29, 2021: The ICE-friendly Nakamoto Group conducts its annual inspection of Torrance. This time, its rating is “Does Not Meet Standards.” As Nakamoto reports, the facility is staffed at only 50% and staff are working mandatory overtime; food service is unsanitary; housing units are unhygienic; detained people who are indigent cannot visit with friends and family; Torrance is not keeping records of complaints filed by detained people; and the facility is not accredited by the American Correctional Association, the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, the Joint Commission on Healthcare, or under the Department of Justice Prison Rape Elimination Act. Nakamoto also reported that one suicide had occurred at Torrance in the past year.
September-October 2021: 73 Haitian people originally detained in Del Rio, Texas are sent to TCDF. At TCDF, they are largely prevented from accessing counsel and legal materials written in a language they understand, presenting major obstacles for their claims to asylum and any other immigration relief.
September 14, 2021: ICE’s Office of Acquisition Management (OAQ) formally modifies its Torrance contract given discrepancies between CoreCivic’s operational performance and the standards set forth in the contract.
November 5, 2021: Innovation Law Lab and partners send letter to ICE demanding that Haitian people detained at Torrance be provided with access to counsel and other legal resources, which had thus far been denied.
November 16-18, 2021: ICE ODO conducts an inspection of Torrance and finds 21 operational deficiencies, noting that the facility holds no accreditation from any outside entities. After the last inspection by ICE ODO in May, which found 9 operational deficiencies, CoreCivic has not provided any corrective action plan.
November 30, 2021: Multiple complaints by detained people about conditions at Torrance are referred directly to ICE. According to the complaints, air conditioning is not working, sinks are leaking, water is flooding from one cell to another, cells have standing water in them, cells smell rotten, bedsheets are dirty, phones are often disconnected, staff are abusive, food is inedible, and medical care is inadequate.
December 17, 2021: New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján as well as Congresswomen Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández (4 of NM’s 5 congressional representatives) write to the Department of Homeland Security regarding Torrance. They express deep concern regarding inhumane conditions, lack of transparency, lack of legal representation, failed inspections and 43 safety and health grievances from people detained at Torrance.
February 4, 2022: ICE reports that DHS OIG found extremely poor conditions at Torrance in an unannounced inspection, including “unhealthy conditions, staff shortages, and detainees in segregation who had not been let out for a week.”
February 9, 2022: ICE reduces the maximum allowed capacity of Torrance by almost 30% given continual staffing and resource shortages and also halves the beds available for USMS use.
March 16, 2022: DHS OIG publishes Management Alert calling for the immediate removal of all detained people from Torrance.
March 18, 2022: 4 of 5 members of NM’s congressional delegation release a joint statement condemning Torrance’s “inhumane and unsafe conditions” and citing DHS OIG’s Management Alert.
March 23, 2022: ICE OAQ modifies the IGSA, stating that Torrance has been “repeatedly in violation” of federal detention center standards as well as their contract. They also note that CoreCivic has overseen a “breakdown in the overall operational capabilities of the TCDF” and an inability to “provide a safe environment for staff and noncitizens, provide the necessary security… and [provide the] care necessary to ensure proper facility maintenance, overall cleanliness, and personal hygiene needs.”
March 25, 2022: NM Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury announces that her Torrance visit earlier in the week may have been manipulated. She reveals she had limited access to housing units, a wait time of over 2 hours to enter Torrance facilities despite her legal authority to conduct unannounced visits, and a “managed and controlled” experience by CoreCivic management.
April 15-19, 2022: ICE transfers over 100 people to Torrance even though a DHS OIG Managment Alert issued only weeks earlier called for the immediate removal of all people detained at Torrance due to dangerous conditions at the facility.
April 19-21, 2022: Torrance undergoes its first National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape (PREA) audit.
May 3-5, 2022: The latest ICE ODO inspection finds 6 operational deficiencies at Torrance, including those related to food service in medical care.
May 15, 2022: Report is released from April PREA audit, finding that Torrance is out of compliance with 11 standards.
June 13, 2022: ACLU of New Mexico files FOIA suit on behalf of Innovation Law Lab to acquire records related to the inhumane conditions at Torrance as well as ICE’s defiance of DHS OIG’s recommendations to immediately remove all detainees.
August 17, 2022: Kesley Vial, an asylum seeker detained at Torrance, hangs himself and later dies by suicide at age 23.
October 25-27, 2022: The latest ICE ODO inspection finds 9 operational deficiencies at Torrance, up from 6 in May. Among other deficiencies, Torrance staff received inadequate suicide prevention training and did not adequately monitor individuals placed on suicide watch.
November 30, 2022: Rafael Oliveira, detained at Torrance, suffers a nonfatal suicide attempt.
December 2022: Ten of eleven men detained at Torrance prepare an open letter denouncing tortuous conditions at the facility, calling for their freedom, and calling on ICE to cancel plans to bring anyone else to Torrance.
December 2, 2022: Immigrant rights groups send a letter to the ICE Health Service Corps requesting an urgent investigation into a worsening medical and mental healthcare crisis at Torrance.
December 19, 2022: DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) reveals that from May 2021-July 2022, it received 192 allegations of retaliation by ICE and CoreCivic personnel from detained individuals in five ICE facilities, including Torrance. Types of retaliation include physical and sexual abuse, denial of legal counsel, and delays or outright denial of medical care. CRCL proceeded to formally investigate 138 of the allegations.
December 2022-February 2023: With just a few people left detained by ICE at Torrance, ICE decides that, instead of ending ICE detention in the facility, they would send hundreds of people seeking asylum to Torrance. People detained at Torrance report a complete absence of privacy during their asylum interviews as well as being cut off by officials while they try to tell their stories of surviving horrific trauma. Most are rapidly ordered deported.
January 27, 2023: Dozens of detained people stage a hunger strike due to mistreatment by guards and inhumane conditions. Torrance staff retaliate by cutting off communication lines with pro bono counsel and isolating alleged leaders of the strike.
January 28, 2023: Another person detained at Torrance, remaining anonymous out of fear of retaliation, suffers a nonfatal suicide attempt.
February 9, 2023: PREA audit from April 2022 is finalized. After Torrance’s noncompliance in 11 standards was announced in May 2022, it is still out of compliance with 6 standards. Among other findings, the audit reported that Torrance staff failed to report allegations of sexual assault to all appropriate authorities.
February 15, 2023: Innovation Law Lab releases report entitled Sleep Deprivation, Torture Rooms, a Rigged Deportation Process, and Attempted Suicide at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico. It is accompanied by a letter signed by 115 people detained at TCDF demanding immediate investigation and closure of the facility.
February 18, 2023: Erick Zelaya is assaulted by Torrance guards and denied subsequent medical attention after protesting that the nightly cell count was an hour earlier that day.
February 2023: 115 men detained at Torrance sign a letter calling on Secretary Mayorkas to close the facility and for Congress to investigate “expedited removal at Torrance, medical abuse, the use of torture rooms for those who admit thoughts of suicide, and retaliation by CoreCivic against persons who denounce conditions and injustices.”
February 24, 2023: Following publication of the previous week’s report, Innovation Law Lab and partner organizations write to DHS, ICE, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demanding that they cease and investigate the inhumane treatment of detained people at Torrance.
March 3, 2023: A person detained at Torrance reveals his nonfatal suicide attempt the previous month, stating that Torrance’s response was simply to place him in isolation.
March 20, 2023: Following the lack of a response to the previous letter and continuation of inhumane tactics, Innovation Law Lab and partner organizations send a second demand letter to DHS, ICE, and USCIS.
March 2023: Claudio Gonzalez, detained at Torrance, reports to Law Lab that a guard had intentionally slammed a cell door on his hand. Facility medical staff told him repeatedly that they didn’t have adequate equipment to address the injury. An ICE officer denied that the assault took place.
April 2023: W. (who prefers not to use his full name due to fear) reported that he was denied medical attention despite making multiple requests amid ongoing pain and complications due to a hernia exacerbated while working in the facility’s kitchen. When he asked a guard for help, she told him she didn’t care and her job was to provide security. W. explained in a declaration: “When I got here, I weighed 210 pounds, and now, three months later, I weigh 175. I am anxious and cry frequently. I have trouble eating and trouble sleeping.”
May 27, 2023: Juan Ángel Hernández Castillo, detained at Torrance, suffers a serious fall after a water leak that had been repeatedly reported to Torrance staff causes him to slip and fall. He is confined to a wheelchair and bed.
July 2023: Several groups of men seeking asylum and imprisoned at Torrance speak out about widespread, persistent, and fatal conditions at Torrance, including harm to physical and mental health, retaliation by staff, labor exploitation, inadequate food, and due process violations.
July 11, 2023: Eleven persons detained at Torrance sign a joint letter exposing the inadequate care and human rights abuses that they suffered at Torrance.
July 11, 2023: Guards brutally attack Carlos Funez-Monrroy, detained at Torrance, after misunderstanding an interaction in the Spanish language and threatening to take him to solitary confinement. One guard nearly strangles Mr. Funez-Monrroy to death until other detained men scream for him to stop. Torrance staff take Mr. Funez-Monrroy to solitary confinement and fail to provide adequate medical care.
August 21, 2023: Innovation Law Lab, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and ACLU of New Mexico submit a complaint to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and other oversight agencies, calling for immediate investigation into ongoing due process violations and human rights abuses at Torrance. These organizations call on ICE to terminate its contract at Torrance.
September 26, 2023: The wrongful death estate of Kesley Vial, a 23-year-old Brazilian asylum seeker, files a lawsuit against TCDF operator CoreCivic. Vial was held in ICE custody at TCDF and died from a fatal suicide attempt in August 2022. The suit notes systemic failures in the facility’s mental health care and charges that CoreCivic’s negligence resulted in Kesley’s death.
October 24, 2023: Citing widespread harm, repeated violations, and mounting lawsuits, a coalition of non-profit legal service providers, advocates, and community members urge Torrance County commissioners not to renew the contract for civil immigration detention at TCDF when it expires in May 2024.
November 3, 2023: Carlos, Luis, Ernesto, and Gabriel Doe file a class action lawsuit against ICE in federal court to challenge the continued use of TCDF. The lawsuit argues that ICE arbitrarily and capriciously recertified the facility as meeting detention standards, thus thwarting a federal law that would have required ICE to cancel its contract with the facility. Innovation Law Lab is representing plaintiffs in this lawsuit, together with the National Immigrant Justice Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.