Migrants held at Cibola County Correctional Center protest inhumane conditions

[anvplayer video=”5150815″ station=”998122″]

For the second time this year, migrants detained in New Mexico have reportedly staged a hunger strike to protest allegedly inhumane conditions inside privately-run detention facilities.

“The conditions for people who are detained there have become increasingly dire,” said Zoe Bowman. Bowman is an attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. She’s currently representing a few migrants detained inside the Cibola County Correctional Facility.

Bowman says more than 2 dozen migrants took part in a hunger strike starting on Oct. 19. According to a handwritten open letter signed by the group, they’ve suffered racist treatment, negligence psychological harm and even torture. Bowman says many of the migrants have also faced an inadequate immigration process.

“There are lots of issues with communication between the officials who work there, and the people in detention, trying to understand what’s going on in their legal case,” Bowman said.

The group of migrants includes men from Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador. Bowman says many of them were fleeing violence in their home countered for safety in the US, but they ended up inside privately-run detention facilities.

In the letter, the group says they reached a breaking point after a Brazilian man detained at the Torrance County Detention Facility committed suicide and a migrant at the Cibola County Facility attempted to take his life as well.

“I think the conditions there have become very dangerous. So many people are reaching a point of desperation,” Bowman said.

Bowman says the hunger strike is on pause right now. She says several men fainted from hunger in the past weeks pushing ICE to agree to review their parole applications. So far, Bowman says at least 7 men have been deported.

This is the second hunger strike among migrants at a private detention facility in New Mexico this year. Nearly a dozen detainees inside the Torrance County Detention Facility staged their own strike in late September for similar reasons.

Both the Torrance and Cibola County facilities are operated by CoreCivic. Bowman believes hunger strikes at both locations are spotlighting injustices in the immigration process – especially when it involved private companies.

“It seems that these private prison companies largely run with impunity,” she said. “it’s been really well documented that there are substandard conditions and abuses going on in these detention centers; yet they remain in operation people remain in their custody”

Bowman – and the migrants participating in hunger strikes – are demanding ICE release all migrants from private detention facilities. The Cibola County group says they don’t want anyone else to suffer the conditions they’ve experienced.

“We already witnessed one, the tragic death of one young man, and it seems inevitable that something similar will happen again soon,” Bowman said.

A CoreCivic spokesperson sent KOB 4 this statement about the allegations surrounding the Cibola County Facility:

“Much of the recent information being shared regarding our Cibola County Correctional Center is neither accurate nor reflective of our policies, procedures or values. 

CoreCivic cares deeply about every person in our care. All of our immigration facilities are monitored very closely by our government partners at ICE, and they’re required to undergo regular review and audit processes to ensure an appropriate standard of living for all detainees. Our staff are trained and held to the highest ethical standards. Our commitment to keeping those entrusted to our care safe and secure is our top priority.

We vehemently deny any allegations of detainee mistreatment. There is a robust grievance process in place should a detainee ever feel they have been treated unfairly.”

Ryan Gustin
Director of Public Affairs

A spokesperson with ICE said claims of a hunger strike are false and provided this statement:

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to continuous improvement of civil detention operations. The health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities. ICE uses a variety of detention models to meet agency detention needs while ensuring fiscal responsibility. All facilities that house ICE detainees are required to follow ICE’s stringent detention standards, which help ensure that all detainees are treated humanely, protected from harm, provided appropriate medical and mental health care, and receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled.”

Paige D. Hughes
Deputy Press Secretary, Southwest 
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement