US Immigration Authorities Sued After Neglecting Detention Center Conditions

( – A recent lawsuit claims that U.S. immigration authorities ignored indications of unclean and unsafe conditions at a detention center in New Mexico, aiming to secure ongoing public funding and keep the facility operational.

The legal action, undertaken by a coalition of advocates for migrants’ rights on Wednesday, represents four Venezuelans aged 26 to 40 seeking asylum in the U.S. The individuals assert that they were deprived of medical attention, lacked access to functional showers, and received insufficient food at the Torrance County Detention Facility. Additionally, they allege being compelled to perform cleaning tasks, sometimes without compensation.

Situated in the rural town of Estancia, approximately 200 miles from the Mexico border, the detention center is contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house a minimum of 505 adult male migrants, although the actual numbers vary.

Advocates have consistently raised concerns about inadequate living conditions at the facility, emphasizing limited access to legal representation for asylum-seekers in transit. Calls have been made for ICE to terminate its contract with the private detention operator, urging state lawmakers to prohibit local government agreements for migrant detention.

Mark Feldman, a senior attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, emphasized that ICE cannot overlook conditions in detention facilities, asserting their oversight responsibility as mandated by Congress.

In the year 2021, the detention facility did not meet the standards of a performance assessment. The legal action argues that ICE attempted to prevent the recording of a second successive failure, which could put federal funding at risk. Allegedly, this was achieved by endorsing a “deeply flawed, lax inspection” conducted by an independent contractor.

The lawsuit alleges that ICE disregarded contradictory findings by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General and an ICE contracting officer, which indicated ongoing unhealthy conditions and staff shortages.

A spokesperson for ICE declined to comment on the litigation. CoreCivic, the private operator of Torrance County, did not immediately provide a statement. As of September, around 35,000 migrants were held in ICE detention facilities in the U.S., with an additional 195,000 monitored under alternatives to detention, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, is supported by the ACLU, Innovation Law Lab, and attorneys for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

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