LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Today, the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights (RCBR) released the report Outsourcing Responsibility: The Human Cost of Privatized Immigration Detention in Otero County detailing inhumane detention practices in the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M. RCBR Program Coordinator Emily Carey, the report’s author, compiled the information from numerous site visits and over 40 interviews with current and past detainees.
Opened in 2008, the Otero facility has the capacity to house up to 1,086 immigrant detainees through an exclusive contract between Otero County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Contract obligations are fulfilled by a subcontract with a for-profit, private prison company, Management and Training Corporation (MTC), which, in turn, subcontracts with Physicians Network Association (PNA) for health services. Both MTC and PNA have been sued in New Mexico and elsewhere for alleged negligence and deliberate indifference.
In fall of 2008, the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights (ACLU-NM) began to receive complaints from detained immigrants in Otero alleging due process violations and inhumane conditions of confinement. In September 2009, ACLU-NM staff formalized these encounters and conducted a series of in-depth interviews with detained immigrants to better understand the conditions in which they are held. Despite ICE’s announcement in October 2009 to reform the immigration detention system, the ACLU continued its efforts to assess the daily reality of immigrants living in a privately operated facility. Though these findings focus on the Otero County Processing Center, they highlight the civil and human rights violations that often occur when the federal government cedes responsibility for civil immigration detention to private prison management companies. Transparency, oversight and accountability—and ultimately the civil and human rights of immigrants for whom the agency is responsible—are degraded in privatized detention center settings. As ICE continues to work towards reform, the increased reliance on private contractors to manage and operate ICE facilities must be re-evaluated. The voices in this report are indicative of why immigration detention reform was and is necessary, and the continued steps that are needed to ensure humane treatment of immigrants in detention.
There were five general areas of concern addressed in this report: (1) limited access to justice, (2) inadequate conditions of confinement, (3) insufficient medical and mental health care services, (4) extended ill effects on detainee’s family and community, and (5) needed improvements in accountability and oversight.