Fall 2023: LAIAC performs 25 interviews with detained men and women. There were reports of hostility from guards including verbal harassment, inadequate food and nutrition, and unsanitary conditions. Women in particular reported not having work opportunities and being left inside with nothing to do. The impacts of food quality included rising blood pressure and inedibility for those with diabetes.

August 2022: In a $2.3 million deal, OCPC begins to detain women. 

June 23, 2021: ICE issues a letter of concern to MTC about violations of detention standards. They found at-risk findings about inadequate staff and compliance issues, unauthorized suspension of recreation services, inadequate medical staffing, and abuse of the voluntary work program. They found deficient conditions of a lack of a safety plan, inadequate food service staffing, and the suspension of religious services. 

January 2021: Innovation Law Lab and Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention release Process by Torment, an extensive report on human rights abuses in Otero. Some of the many events cited include:

  • An MTC guard hurt the wrist of a detained person, and even after a great deal of swelling, the detained person was not able to receive medical care. When asked who attacked him, the detained person revealed that he didn’t know because guards often conceal their name tags. At least three other individuals have corroborated the fact that guards conceal their identities to avoid retribution. 
  • There have been multiple reports of MTC guards denying detained people food if they didn’t sit exactly where they were told, with one individual claiming he had missed many meals because of this. 
  • At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many guards did not properly wear masks and yelled at anyone who expressed concern about these circumstances. One detained person was placed in solitary confinement for 14 days after contracting COVID-19, reporting that he was treated like a criminal and was unable to bathe himself for extended periods. 
  • There is a lack of support for non-English speaking detained people, with many being asked to sign documents they don’t understand. One individual who had experienced a brain injury and was illiterate did not receive appropriate accommodations to understand the immigration documents he was presented with. 

July 30, 2020: The Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) received complaints from ACLU, LAIAC, and SFDP alleging unfit conditions at Otero. CRCL performed an inspection and “revealed significant deficiencies in Otero’s grievance process, disciplinary process, use of segregation, and medical care.

  • Grievances: Grievances are not thoroughly investigated by Otero officials, and the responses are not personalized to the situation. The sheer number of grievances made suggest a culture of rude, discourteous, and discriminatory treatment.
  • Discipline and segregation: 14% of the grievances reviewed showed concerns of lack of due process and time left in segregation. CRCL expressed concern about detained peoples’ mental health during prolonged times of segregation and the failure of Grievance Officers to address reports of serious mental health problems. CRCL recommended to Otero that the length of time spent in segregation is appropriate and that mental health rounds be consistently conducted to support detained people. 
  • Medical Care: Grievances about medical and dental care made mention of medical co-payment fees. National Detention Standards do not authorize medical co-payments, but require that if they will be used “All residents are advised, in writing, at the time of admission to the facility of the guidelines of the copayment program.” These guidelines were not communicated. CRCL called for a revision of Otero’s healthcare policies, specifically ending the copayment program.  

May 2020: Covid cases spread rapidly due to the proximity of detained people. At least 31 cases were confirmed by mid-May. 

March 2020: Two cases of Coronavirus are found at OCPC, affecting a worker and a detained person. Over two dozen immigrant advocacy groups and public officials sent a letter to ICE calling for the “orderly and coordinated release of detained migrants.” But this request was not answered. 

January 2020: As hunger strikes and suicide threats continue, a team of inspectors run by the government-owned Nakamoto Group performed an inspection of Otero noting no serious conflicts or poor conditions. In the previous year, 257 grievances and 301 accusations of disciplinary infractions had been made. The Nakamoto report is incongruent with detained peoples’ experiences. 

October 2019: Cuban asylum seekers detained at OCPC threaten hunger striking and self-harm in protest of conditions in Otero

June 1, 2019:  Johana Medina León, a 25 year old trans asylum seeker from El Salvador, dies shortly after being detained at OCPC. In late May 2019, she began to feel sick in Otero custody. Medina León had worked as a nurse and knew she needed IV fluids but her requests were denied. She even went as far as to ask for water, sugar, and salt to make her own IVs but the Otero officials refused. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and all her requests for help were denied. She asked to be deported back to El Salvador where she faced violence for being transgender just so she wouldn’t have to suffer in detention. She never got the chance and passed away on June 1, 2019. 

2019: A protest group called Plantado Report pg 11 (unmovable) was created among detained people protesting a lack of release options and a lack of communication from Deportation Officers about the release. Many had been detained in Otero and went months without receiving any communication from the DOs. 

  • During a peaceful protest in the recreation yard asking for communication from DOs, 20 plantado protestors were met with force from 50-60 Otero officials, including the use of pepper spray and the threat of firearms. 
  • Otero Officials searched plantado protestors’ dorms leaving them in disarray. They unjustly seized important personal belongings including personal correspondence, court documents, and even official grievances filed against MTC staff. 
  • Plantado protestors were retaliated against by being placed in solitary confinement
  • Plantado protestors, specifically Afro-Cubano members, reported racial harassment from Otero officials. Other non-Cubans have also shared claims of being treated like animals and having racial slurs thrown at them by guards. 
  • Plantado protestors are often placed in solitary confinement. One protestor in confinement who was hunger striking was told that he would be forcibly fed against his will. In another incident, officials told a protester he would be put in confinement for 22 straight days, although it was only 8 in the end. 

July 2018: Freedom for Immigrants and Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee publish a report documenting complaints at OCPC regarding inadequate and poor quality food, inadequate medical attention, harassment by staff and guards, and abuse of solitary confinement to punish and intimidate people in detention.

2018: Inspector general performs a surprise audit revealing systematic and suspicionless strip searches, rotten food and moldy bathrooms, the misuse of segregation, the denial of communications, and long delays for medical care. Specific to Otero, federal inspectors observed non-working telephones, unsanitary bathrooms, unjustified lockdowns, and solitary confinements. Report on surprise audit

December 11, 2017: The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) publishes its audit of Otero. They reported guards arbitrarily applied segregation and lock-down and a general failure to communicate rights or allow detainees to appeal decisions of segregation. They also observed mold and peeling paint in bathrooms and a lack of access to a working telephone. Reporting from the Criminal Justice Project shows that conditions at OCPC are even worse than what was reported by OIG, and highlights issues of medical neglect. 

May 4, 2016: The Department of Homeland Security officially resolves and closes the complaint from December 4, 2012. They reiterate their findings and state that they “appreciate the work that has been done by ICE to address CRCL’s concerns.” Memo

April 7, 2016: Rafael Barcenas-Padilla, 51, passed away from bronchopneumonia three days after leaving the OCPC. While being detained in Otero, he became ill for six days with a fever of 104 degrees and dangerously low blood oxygen levels. These levels should have prompted immediate hospitalization, but only one call was made to a doctor who prescribed medication for upper respiratory infections. Otero did not have the nebulizer available to administer the medication, so he received none. It took three additional days for him to be hospitalized, at which point he succumbed to his illness. 

2015: 43 detainees were interviewed and 75 complaints were made. The most common concerns were inadequate medical attention (18), unsanitary medical conditions (15), cold temperature (13), and problems with being kept uninformed about the legal process (11). Report pg 16.

December 4, 2012: The US Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) publishes a memorandum of their investigation of conditions at Otero. The report was conducted on March 13-15, 2012, in response to complaints from 2011 regarding violations of due process, inadequate medical care, retaliation for participation in hunger strikes, and other grave human rights abuses. Memo to ICE 

January 2011: OUTSOURCING RESPONSIBILITY: The Human Cost of Privatized Immigration Detention in Otero County Report by ACLU of New Mexico

Sept. 18, 2008: An ICE Facility inspection report shows that months after the facility opened they were not providing people detained in OCPC with proper nutrition, they were not complying with safety regulations in the kitchen, and detainees working in the kitchen weren’t provided with proper safety equipment. Six months later, a follow-up report showed additional issues, including the presence of flies in the kitchen area. 

May 23, 2008: OCPC opens with a capacity to hold 1,089 people. It is owned by Otero County and is operated by ICE through an Intergovernmental Service Agreement between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE Detention and Removal Operations. Management of the facility is done by a private for-profit firm MTC. Per diem pay rate of between $91.66 and $117.00, although ICE later classified those numbers as trade secrets. 2018 Otero Report

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