EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A contractor who operates an immigration facility in Estancia, New Mexico, is refuting a legal advocacy organization’s claim that several migrants have gone on a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment and health hazards.
The migrants began their protest on Monday demanding their release, an end to deportations and an end to “discriminatory” U.S. immigration practices, according to the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Immigrant Law Center.
“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,” the center said in a statement on Wednesday.
The allegations involve U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison operator CoreCivic at the Torrance County Detention Facility.
On Thursday, a spokesman for CoreCivic denied that any detainees are on a hunger strike at the Torrance County Detention Facility. “Not one detainee has missed a meal,” wrote Matthew Davio, the company’s public affairs manager, in an email in response to an inquiry from Border Report.
The law center said the detainees outlined their complaints in a handwritten letter last week. The letter was signed by 12 migrants.
“On August 16, they took us out of the refuge we were in, lying by saying we would be transferred to a shelter for the next one or two weeks. In the end, they brought us to a prison,” the letter says.
The inmates complain about alleged psychological abuse from officers who told them they would either be deported or stay locked up for the next two years.
The center in its statement includes the testimony of Orlando de los Santos Evangelista, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who is one of the migrants allegedly on hunger strike.
“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 statement quotes De los Santos as saying.
The migrants complain about being taken to detention rooms with flies and mosquitos and mold in the bathrooms. They said they ended up cleaning the cell block themselves. They also allege their calls to family members are often cut short by staff.
CoreCivic said the letter is making false claims about the conditions at the facility. The company says the facility gets its water from the City of Estancia, so it’s the same as the rest of the residents and businesses in the area.
The company says all detainees have access to medical care, including mental health services, and that the facility’s clinic is staffed by licensed doctors, nurses and other health professionals. “We are firmly committed to providing those in our care with access to counsel and the courts,” the company’s email said. “Our facility has not received any complaints or grievances from detainees or attorneys about legal access issues.”
The Innovation Law Lab, another advocacy organization, says Torrance has a history of complaints from migrants and failed an internal inspection last year.
“Torrance, like other ICE detention centers, is plagued with a host of human rights abuses including lack of access to potable water, mold throughout the facility, forced labor, poor food quality, inoperable toilets, lack of access to council and denial of adequate medical care,” the law lab wrote on its website last June.
But CoreCivic said the facility is monitored closely by ICE and other agencies and earlier this year demonstrated compliance with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.