“They’re psychologically killing us.”
In July 2023, several groups of men seeking asylum and imprisoned by ICE in Torrance, New Mexico learned of past open letters from people detained there denouncing torturous conditions and demanding their freedom and an end to detention at the facility. On a handwritten page each, 32 of the men added their testimony to the record of survival inside Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF).
The men wrote these testimonies in group visits during July 2023. Their notes contributed to a formal complaint filed with DHS oversight agencies on August 21st, 2023 regarding ongoing due process and human rights violations at TCDF.
Because of the volume of their accounts, included below are excerpts to illustrate more concisely the widespread, persistent, and fatal issues at Torrance that have been documented repeatedly. To protect against retaliation, for which Torrance and staff elsewhere are under federal investigation, excerpts are shared anonymously unless the writer specifically sought to be named publicly.
Comments often touch on multiple topics but are organized below by main area of concern.
HARM TO PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
“There isn’t the necessary medical attention that one requires.”
“Doctors don’t attend to us when we need them in emergencies; we could have a painful emergency and first we have to fill out our information and this is bad because with illness we don’t know ahead of time what day we’re going to get sick. I want them to be able to attend to us well and quickly in the moment hat we need.”
“ … very bad medical attention because when you are sick and want some medicine and have to fill out a paper and wait till it pleases them to give it to you. Or at the same time they give you a pill and nothing else and we could die for them to attend to us.”
“In my experience the medical attention is useless; they don’t even want to touch you if you’re hurt, and I lived this firsthand. I opted not to ask for more [medical] attention because the pills don’t work.” –Jilson Pazmino Mestanza
“Another problem is the bad laundering of the clothes, the uniforms, that each time they come back more dirty than clean. Or also at times they have us locked up for extra time during count. I would like for you all to help us with this. Since a companion almost suffocated in his cell and they still didn’t open his door.”
“Since I arrived at ‘CoreCivic’ it has been very hard, mistreatment by the guards, who are racist. The food is awful, bad nutrition. I have gone 10 days now without being able to use the bathroom. What there is for medical attention is awful, no one listens to us, which is to say that we don’t know what will happen to us. On Wednesday, the 5th of July of this year at 3:00pm they locked us up during count. At the moment of lockup I decided to do some exercise, but finishing up I began feeling agitated and faint, I was short of breath, so from such desperation I started to call using the voice button. I called 5 times but no one responded, and 3 friends from the unit asked for help and they called but no one responded. I had to splash water on my body to make what I was feeling pass. The guards had us another half hour in lockup. On the 5th of July this happened to me, thank God I was able to save myself.” –John Feliz Bravo
“Help us get out of here because they’re psychologically killing us.”
“I, Kevin Arcos — my son died 8 months ago due to cancer of the blood, at his 6 little years. For me it’s been very hard to be here locked up with depression. I’ve asked for help but not received it from the detention center; the only thing they say is to take some pills to be able to sleep.” –Kevin Arcos
“The guards mistreat us psychologically.”
“Psychological mistreatment.” –Jilson Pazmino Mestanza
“When we need an explanation of something that we don’t understand they yell at us, and what they do, it’s better to leave and be left with the confusion.”
“I’ve generally received psychological mistreatment: both the security guards and the ICE staff come and yell at us only in their own language.”
“… at night when the officers do their rounds they do it with the radio at maximum volume; every time they let the door slam shut loudly; they shine the flashlight in your face, cutting people’s sleep; and we see that they don’t respect us. Another thing is that they wake us up at 4:30am.”
“Psychological mistreatment by staff because they shout each hour and don’t let you sleep because they shine flashlights on your face every half hour all night.”
“My experience here in the Torrance detention center is the worst thing that’s happened to me in my life. They make you get up at the time they say; every 5 minutes they pass by shining light on your face; they don’t let you sleep.”
RETALIATION BY STAFF
Describing the willingness of people detained to speak up against mistreatment as a group, Diego Crespo Churi wrote:
“There is not support because we’re afraid of retaliation.”
“I received mistreatment from an officer, since I explained that the food is very spicy, and his words were, “I don’t care, you are shit.” –Cristian Rodriguez Mite
“Cellmates obligated to work without receiving pay and nibbling at the miserable salary of 5 dollars for 8 hours of work is a complete abuse on the part of CoreCivic in this detention center.”
“They give us work, lying that they’ll pay a total of 2 to 5 dollars but in the end they don’t pay.”
“The food doesn’t come prepared adequately; it would be excellent if the food they give us were to be consumed by the CoreCivic staff so that they know what they give us for food.”
“One doesn’t even know if it’s salty or sweet.”
“We demand that they improve the food, the treatment of the migrants.”
VIOLATIONS OF DUE PROCESS
“There’s no privacy in the [asylum] interviews.”
“… here they give us an identification [number] that our families can [use] to look up to find legal help but with the Agency number we give them so that they can review our case it turns out we don’t appear in the system.”
“I got to Torrance on Tuesday, 06/06/2023, and in the following days immediately we began to do credible fear interviews, and we didn’t receive any orientation, and they made us be brief, and just to make us afraid. And at the same time I got a negative [credible fear determination] with just two answers, and my interview wasn’t adequate because they just make demands for [certain answers], one doesn’t know if the people from ICE are trained to evaluate credible fear … .”
“The problem is it’s very unfair since they scam you, but we would like help because there’s no confidentiality in the [credible fear] interview, and the judge in the appeal tells us there’s no other way. But there is a way to reconsider the case.”
“Going to the judge, my rights were violated, where the attorney wasn’t allowed to speak.” –Kevin Arcos
“The officers who do the credible fear interviews don’t allow us to express what we need to say.Same with the immigration judge not letting us express ourselves.” –Kevin Tentets Kukush
“They’ve mocked us making us believe this is shelter, but it’s a prison.”
“How has it been? It’s been the worst [experience] of my life; it’s a maximum security prison where the interviews with [asylum] officers are NOT worth anything. They DON’T value people with disabilities; in my case I was NOT given attention in this detention center; I have a physical disability, but there’s NOT any help.
“What do I want? That they change the laws or that this place disappear.
“What do I hope for? That when other people come here they won’t be offended like our groups are.
“Need or demand? I need for this prison not to exist and demand better treatment for people in terms of discipline, food, and health. And that people with disabilities be taken into account because one of these people is me.”
“We shouldn’t be [detained] here. Also the treatment is very bad. The guards mistreat us psychologically. They shout at us and only give us what we need when they want to. They say bad things to us when they want to. The food is very bad; I myself eat almost nothing. I’ve lost a lot of weight here. I ask, please, that a group of reporters come to review this place and make a documentary of this prison so that the world will understand what we’re living through here. I hope that my testimony will serve so that that they close this place and don’t bring more people here.” –Carlos Funez Monrroy
“(1) My experience has been so traumatic seeing my companions crying, consoling each other. (2) Seeing worms in the food. (3) Seeing officers treat people badly; today an officer made an obscene sign to a companion; they offend us in English without knowing that there are companions who speak English. (4) In my case, having spent a week detained I was injured by a needle that, even today, I don’t know what type of needle it was; it was super rusty. (5) They lock us up in our cells up to 5 times [per day], an hour for each lock up; it’s traumatic. (6) The officers don’t identify themselves with their identification cards visible. (7) Not only do we suffer but so do our families.” –Darwin Aguilar Miranda
“This experience I’ve had here I don’t wish on anyone. It’s a bad place; God willing with time it’s shut down because it’s an injustice being locked up already here 21 days just for having entered this country; I didn’t come to do anything wrong; not even the judge helps us to be able to move onward.” –Edgar Lalvay Gallego
“Honestly I have fear of returning to my country, but I have more fear of being in prison.” –Jilson Pazmino Mestanza
“I’d rather die in my country than be in a prison in the U.S.” –Oscar Nova Suesca
“I ask the entities for an immediate closure of these prisons because they are an abuse to human rights and to society. No human being should receive these punishments.”