New lawsuit filed against Torrance County Detention Facility

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TORRANCE COUNTY, N.M. – The ACLU of New Mexico is suing the company that operates the Torrance County Detention Facility after a Brazilian migrant took his own life inside a cell last August.

The migrant housing center – about 40 miles outside of Albuquerque – has been the target of federal inspectors, civil rights complaints, and now a wrongful death lawsuit.

Attorneys say it’s clear 23-year-old Kesley Vial’s suicide was a direct result of poor management and mistreatment from the facility’s employees.

According to the lawsuit, Vial – a Brazilian asylum seeker – was transported to the facility last April after surrendering to Border Patrol agents.

An immigration judge decided to deport him in June of that year. But, instead of being sent back to Brazil, the lawsuit says Vial was kept at the facility for another two months.

Attorneys say his mental health quickly deteriorated after multiple failed deportation attempts. Despite many warnings’ Vial was suicidal, the lawsuit says employees did not take proper action to protect him or others.

“What we’ve identified here is a series of systemic failures at that facility and a failure by staff to properly recognize, and respond to many red flags about how his mental health was deteriorating, and the level of protection that he needed, which ultimately resulted in his tragic and preventable death,” said Rebecca Sheff a senior staff attorney of ACLU of New Mexico.  

Vial’s death sparked hunger strikes at both the Torrance and similarly-operated Cibola County Detention Center among migrants demanding better treatment from staff.

His death also significantly increased calls to shut down the facility and relocate all its detainees.

As of Wednesday night, the Torrance County Facility is still housing migrants and facing allegations of mistreatment largely due to chronic staffing shortages.

A spokesperson with CoreCivic says “We are deeply saddened by and take very seriously the passing of any individual in our care.”

But he added ICE’s investigation did not list staffing or access to medical services as a contributing factor.

KOB 4 reached out to ICE and Torrance County leaders about this new lawsuit and the ongoing allegations. We’re still waiting to hear back.