EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The American Civil Liberties Union and three other groups have sent the federal government a 186-page letter alleging mistreatment and due process violations against migrants at the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico.
The complaint to the Department of Homeland Security alleges “systemic due process violations” in credible fear interviews used to determine if a non-citizen in federal immigration custody should be deported. Alleged violations include interference with access to legal counsel, failure to deliver documents, and an inadequate review of status determination.
The complaint also calls for an immediate DHS investigation of alleged ongoing mistreatment, retaliation, and improper medical care. The letter singles out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detention center contractor CoreCivic.
“In Torrance County Detention Facility, migrants have no chance at having their cases heard fairly or being guaranteed their physical safety,” said Zoe Bowman, senior attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, one of the complainants. “Our team has witnessed numerous vulnerable individuals treated inhumanely, including unethical conduct by medical professionals and retaliation against migrants who report abuse, as well as severe violations of due process that blatantly disregard human dignity and life.”
The groups are asking DHS to terminate contracts with private contractors and question whether they are being held accountable despite a “terrible track record.”
“This needs to end now. It is well past time for DHS to cut contracts and for the agency to reckon with its human rights abuses,” Bowman said. “We call on the Biden administration and DHS to put an end to this cruelty and create more legal pathways that are open, fair, and accessible. Lives are at stake.”
But a spokesman for CoreCivic called the allegations “inaccurate and misleading.”
“We provide a safe, humane and appropriate environment for those entrusted to us at TCDF and are constantly striving to deliver an even better standard of care,” said the spokesman, Brian Todd. “We have not received any complaints or grievances at our TCDF from detainees or attorneys about legal access issues.”
The contractor does not have a say in the detainees’ legal process, which is the purview of federal immigration officials. Border Report reached out to ICE on that and is awaiting a response.
The detention facility in Estancia has a history of complaints from migrant advocacy organizations and concerns from the Office of the Inspector General.
Contractor CoreCivic, in the past, has refuted some of the groups’ allegations and stated detainees have adequate access to medical care. The contractor recently settled a lawsuit with attorneys for former detained migrants involving an alleged pepper spray incident during a hunger strike in 2020.