Immigrants detained at Torrance County Detention Facility begin hunger strike

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ESTANCIA, N.M. — The Torrance County Detention Facility has been under fire for months after a federal report detailed the filthy conditions detainees were living in. Photos showed clogged toilets and broken sinks, among other issues.

Attorneys with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center said efforts to improve those conditions have gone nowhere. Now, they say asylum seekers are taking a stand with a hunger strike.

“They have been ignored for the past several months and have taken this extreme action so that the administration takes them seriously and takes their testimonies seriously,” said Sophia Genovese, the senior attorney at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center.

The hunger strike reportedly started on Monday. In an open letter signed by at least 13 detainees, the group says they are protesting the conditions inside the facility – saying there are lots of mosquitos, flies, and the bathrooms are covered in mold.

Albuquerque Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury described similar conditions after she visited the facility back in March.

The group of detainees is also protesting alleged mistreatment from ICE officers and workers hired by CoreCivic, the company that runs the facility.

“They’re saying really egregious things to our clients, saying the only way you’ll get released from this place is if you tell us you’re going to kill yourself,” Genovese said. “That’s completely unacceptable.”

In the letter, the detainees said they came to the U.S. seeking help, not to be locked up. They are asking for all migrants to be released from the facility, and for ICE to stop detaining future asylum seekers there.

Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury shared the following statement with KOB 4:

“The private, for-profit management of the Torrance County facility has a long and troubled history. I continue to stand with over a hundred of my House colleagues in opposition to the use of private for-profit contracts for immigrant detention and am continuing to monitor the situation closely.”

The public affairs manager for CoreCivic, Matthew Davio, shared the following statement:

There were no detainees on a hunger strike at Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF), nor is there a hunger strike occurring today. Not one detainee has missed a meal.  The letter also made several other false claims about the conditions at TCDF, some of which are easily refuted by the following facts:

  • The facility gets its water from the City of Estancia, so it’s exactly the same water used by residents and businesses in the area.
  • All detainees have daily access to sign up for medical care, including mental health services.  Our clinic is staffed with licensed, credentialed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals who contractually meet the highest standards of care. 
  • We’re firmly committed to providing those in our care with access to counsel and the courts, which is codified in our Human Rights Policy. Our facility has not received any complaints or grievances from detainees or attorneys about legal access issues.

TCDF is monitored closely by our partners at ICE, and it’s required to undergo regular review and audit processes to ensure an appropriate standard of living for all detainees. For example, TCDF earned accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) earlier this year by demonstrating compliance with NCCHC’s Standards for Health Services in Jails, which are some of the most rigorous in correctional health care. ICE also employs a Detention Standard Compliance Officer to ensure we adhere to their strict standards and policies.

We do not enforce immigration laws or policies or have any say whatsoever in an individual’s deportation or release. We also have no role in, nor any influence over, the legal process.