Media Contact Information
Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
The following press release mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering self-harm or suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or at 988.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – On March 20, 2023, Innovation Law Lab, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and Santa Fe Dreamers Project delivered a second letter to multiple agencies of the US Department of Homeland Security after the DHS entities failed to respond to accusations of dire conditions and other abusive and retaliatory tactics at the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) in Estancia, NM. The follow up letter was sent to the offices of:
- US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro J. Mayorkas
- Acting Deputy Assistant Director of US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Todd J. Thurlow
- El Paso ICE Field Office Director Mary De Anda-Ybarra
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Houston Asylum Office Supervisory Management and Program Analyst, Daniel Phillips; and
- The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman
The letter was also filed with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Office of the Inspector General, and Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman as a formal complaint requiring urgent investigation.
The second letter was sent after the recipients did not respond to the first letter within 15 business days, which called for immediate action to cease and investigate the egregious conditions and inhumane treatment employed by CoreCivic personnel at the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) in New Mexico. The four organizations called for:
- ICE to instruct CoreCivic to cease punishing individuals for self-reporting symptoms of suicidality with rooms that those detained at TCDF have come to call “torture rooms;”
- DHS to cease administering fear interviews at TCDF because the facility cannot physically provide a private and confidential setting for individuals conducting their fear interviews;
- DHS to issue Notices to Appear (NTAs) to all individuals currently detained at TCDF who have been subjected to the egregious due process violations described in the letter and an attached report, which include the administration of fear interviews over faulty phone lines in a non-private, non-confidential setting; the failure to provide people in detention with information about the legal process; and the failure to ensure access to language interpretation; and
- ICE and USCIS to begin a formal investigation into the violations detailed in this letter and the attached report, based on interviews with 115 men detained at TCDF from January-February 2023, including the physical conditions of the cells at TCDF.
- DHS to provide a response outlining a plan of action for TCDF, including the disciplinary and remedial measures that may be undertaken in response to any findings of staff misconduct.
In the weeks since delivery of the first letter to the recipient DHS agencies, the advocacy organizations have received multiple new reports of negligent medical services, retaliation and physical assault by CoreCivic guards, and harmful mental health services suffered by individuals detained in TCDF – including another attempted suicide inside TCDF. This marks the sixth individual known to have attempted suicide in ICE custody at TCDF in the past eight months, underscoring the need for all responsible parties at DHS to take these reports seriously and respond to the above listed demands before another preventable death occurs on their watch.
The four advocacy organizations are asking DHS agencies to provide a written response to this letter no later than Friday, March 24, 2023, at 5 PM MST.
The recent testimony of Jefferson [last name anonymous for speaker’s safety] while detained at TCDF exemplifies some of the mistreatment, including medical negligence, at the facility:
“Mental health services are terrible. If I have a need to talk to someone I will just talk to someone else detained and try to work it out that way, because the psychologist only asks you if you are going to harm yourself, and if you say you are not feeling well, they put you in the torture rooms. So no one wants to talk to them – I am scared to talk to them, because if I say one wrong word they might interpret it in a way that results in me being locked up in the torture room.”
As of March 21, 2023, there are approximately 400 men currently detained at TCDF. From conversations with more than 100 men detained at the facility since January 2023, the organizations have come to understand that these men are asylum-seeking individuals who recently arrived in the United States and have been placed in expedited removal proceedings. All of these individuals may have legal remedies; however, many if not all have been subjected to torturous conditions and persistent and egregious due process violations. Many of these violations are outlined in a recent report.
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