(Image from KOB 4 broadcast Torrance County faces pressure to reject ICE contract renewal, April 10, 2024)

Estancia, NM — Torrance County Commissioners Samuel Schropp, Ryan Schwebach, and Kevin McCall voted 3-0 today to allow County Manager Janice Barela to extend the operation of the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) as an ICE jail for four months.

Fifteen attendees offered public comment against extension of the ICE contract at the Commission meeting before the Commissioners’ vote. The comments cited testimony from men detained at the facility, student researchers, faith group visitors, legal service providers, and mental health evaluators.

Edwin Garcia, currently detained at TCDF, provided recorded testimony that Jessica Martinez of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center played on his behalf for the Commission and public. Garcia’s spoken remarks are transcribed below, lightly edited for readability:

Hi. My name is Edwin Garcia, a detainee here in Torrance County detention Facility. I grew up in the United States since I was one year old till I was 20 years old, now fleeing for my life from Mexico.

I want to speak to you all today about the things that are actually happening in this place starting off with the mistreatment that the detainees receive from guard staff — that being detainees asking for medical attention and being ignored by guards, for the reason that they don’t speak Spanish as their main reason for not helping; as well as being ignored when asking for water refills. Guards not also being at their posts on the weekends for most of the day, which is a big safety hazard to all of us in case of an emergency … As well as the filthiness of the pods, having to deal with dirty sewage water uprising from the floor, nasty dark water with matter and leaving a horrendous smell that us detainees have to deal with during the whole day as well as having to clean it up ourselves.

Lastly, also the things that really bother us is the lack of letting us speak upon this place, when letting us know that we have the right to do so. Personally, what’s happened to me is, having been denied to speak to the group that was recently here doing an audit about the place, which is very frustrating and, and you know, in other words, hiding something, obviously, so please help stop this by not renewing this contract. I know you will make the right decision.

Thank you all very much for your time. God bless.

Today’s comments followed 15 others — including several other firsthand testimonies from people detained — at the Torrance County Commission’s previous meeting, on April 10, 2024.

Commissioner Samuel Schropp denied the credibility of testimonies provided at the April 10 and April 24, 2024 meetings. “The reports we heard today are not credible,” Schropp stated at today’s meeting before voting in favor of the contract extension.

Documentation of firsthand testimony from people detained, compiled complaints and evaluations, and events regarding TCDF dating back to May 2019 is available here.