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Lawmakers Call for Closure of ICE Jail in NM

October 21, 2022 (1 min read)

Phaedra Haywood, Santa Fe New Mexican, Oct. 21, 2022

"U.S. senators from California and Massachusetts have joined New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján in calling for the closure of a Torrance County immigration detention center. The lawmakers — including California’s Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, all Democrats — asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Tae D. Johnson to immediately end the government’s contract with private operator CoreCivic, citing inhumane conditions and the recent suicide of a detainee at the Estancia facility. “Grievous living conditions, critical staffing shortages and lack of access to detainee services ... have been consistently documented and shown to be widespread, despite your agency’s assurances to the contrary,” the senators wrote in a letter to Johnson. “This neglect puts those individuals who remain in the facility in unconscionable circumstances.” The facility has an 800-person capacity, but only 26 men were still living there as of Thursday, according to the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. ... “Despite being paid about $2 million a month for detaining people on behalf of the federal government thanks to a 505-bed guaranteed minimum, CoreCivic has been wholly unable to meet its contractually obligated staffing levels,” the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico reported in September. About 10 people were deported out of the facility last week, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center senior attorney Sophia Genovese said. She said the move was an effort by officials to quash an investigation into to a recent hunger strike by detainees protesting poor conditions. “They are trying to sweep all of this under the rug, and the way you silence witnesses is by deporting them,” Genovese said. “We are grateful the lawmakers have taken notice of the serious situation at Torrance and are demanding action. We are ready for this contract to be canceled.” The senators’ letter asks Johnson to deport, release or transfer the men. Many hail from Turkey, Columbia and Ecuador, according to a September report."