Immigrants held at Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico have issued an open letter and announced a hunger strike to protest dangerous conditions and mistreatment by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its private prison operator CoreCivic. Some of the men began their hunger strike on Monday, Sept. 26. Their demands include an end to ICE detention at Torrance and the release of migrants currently at the facility; an end to involuntary deportations; and an end to discriminatory practices in our immigration system.
The severity of the situation at Torrance has been documented in recent complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The complaints include multiple migrant testimonies that detail alarming personal experiences ranging from “egregious” filthy conditions, medical and mental health neglect and insufficient drinking water, to prolonged detention, staff misconduct and unlawful retaliation.
Excerpts from the letter, along with English translations, are included below:
“Al cambiarnos de pabellón llegamos al 7D y lo encontramos en malas condiciones. Estaba muy sucio, muchos zancudos, muchas moscas, los baños llenos de hongos y las celdas ni se diga. Nos tocó a nosotros mismos ponernos a limpiar.” | “When we were moved to pod 7D we found it in very poor condition. It was filthy, lots of mosquitos, lots of flies, the bathrooms covered in mold, and the cells go without saying. We were tasked with cleaning it ourselves.”
“A muchos de mis compañeros les da miedo ir al psicólogo para pedir ayuda por el miedo de ser encerrados y amarrados en un cuarto frío y sin una alimentación adecuada. Ya se llevaron dos compañeros y no sabemos nada de ellos hace 3 días.” | “Many of my friends feel afraid to go to the psychologist to seek help because they are scared they will be locked up and tied up in a cold room without adequate food. This is what happened to two of our friends and we haven’t heard anything about them in three days.”
The letter was signed by over a dozen men at Torrance, and includes calls for ICE to stop violating their human rights and to cease the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers by CoreCivic. You can view the handwritten letter here.
Orlando de los Santos Evangelista, a man from the Dominican Republic who is among the detained individuals engaged in a hunger strike, issued the following statement:
“We came here to escape the violence, extortion, death and injustices that we have suffered in our countries. But what we found was prison, mistreatment and humiliation. No human being should be subjected to the conditions we now live in.
The fact that we don’t have basic necessities like water, food, safety, sanitary facilities, adequate medical attention, any show of human decency by guards or the chance to talk to our loved ones, not to mention going outside or information in our languages about anything, especially about when it will ever end.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Inspector General’s office released a report saying the conditions for inmates there in Estancia are inhumane, and staffing is dangerously low. The company who operates the facility, and ICE are pushed back against those claims.
The recommendation from the investigator was to remove all inmates from the facility until the problems are fixed. That never happened.