FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts: 

PJ Podesta, pj@innovationlawlab.org

Ian Philabaum, ian@innovationlawlab.org 

Sophia Genovese, sgenovese@nmilc.org 

NEW MEXICO — On Tuesday, December 6, 2023, US Senator Martin Heinrich sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas citing disturbing reports from people detained in Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) in New Mexico and reiterating a call for ICE to end its contract at the facility.

“I am growing exceedingly frustrated that my concerns have not been addressed,” Senator Heinrich wrote.

The letter cites a November 14, 2023, flood of raw sewage that left approximately 40 men in one detention unit desperately asking TCDF staff to let them out into the hallway for hours. Disturbingly, after some of the men were able to use an emergency exit to get to safety in the adjacent unit, TCDF staff sought to blame detained individuals for allegedly opening the emergency door in violation of facility rules and placed those individuals in solitary confinement.

Prior to the sewage flood, Innovation Law Lab and non-profit partner organization colleagues had been receiving increasingly numerous reports from individuals detained at TCDF regarding lack of drinking water, cold indoor temperatures, lack of clean clothes and laundry, inedible food, and denial of outdoor recreation time. TCDF staff consistently cited a lack of sufficient staffing as the reason for the denial of outdoor recreation time.

A complete water shutoff at the facility on November 30, 2023 left people detained without the ability to flush their toilets, wash their hands, or shower from 4:30am to 9:30pm in at least one unit of dozens of detained people. A staff member caused panic in the unit after telling the men not to expect water to return for up to three days. Meanwhile staff did not bring drinking water to the unit for the entire day.

Last Friday, December 1, 2023, detained individuals wrote an open letter decrying conditions in the facility. “There is no food or good treatment that will give us back the time that is being stolen and taken away from us,” the men wrote.

Over the next two days, multiple units of dozens of detained individuals reportedly discussed plans to begin a hunger strike in protest of the noted conditions inside TCDF and, for some, the psychological torment of receiving no information about their immigration cases or possibility of release for over two months.

On Monday evening, December 4, 2023, staff members removed an alleged organizer of fellow detained individuals to an isolation unit, falsely claimed he sought to harm himself, and assaulted him when he indicated he did not need or want to be placed in isolation. Officers then cut the man’s clothes off his body and left him naked in front of multiple officers. Officers then took him to an isolation unit, turned off the lights, and assaulted him again while he remained in restraints. They left him in the isolation unit overnight, naked, in a cold room with no mattress or bedding, only a spare metal bed frame. This individual, as well as at least eight other detained individuals alleged by facility staff to have engaged in organizing activities at TCDF, have now been transferred out of the facility.

These events recall the long track record of endemic abuse and lethal harm at TCDF.

Yet again, we state that it is past time for ICE to end its contract at TCDF.