FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2022
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Immigrants detained at Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico issued an open letter and announced a hunger strike to protest dangerous conditions and mistreatment by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its private prison operator CoreCivic. Some of the men began their hunger strike on Monday, September 26. Their demands include an end to ICE detention at Torrance and the release of migrants currently at the facility; an end to involuntary deportations; and an end to discriminatory immigration practices in our immigration system.
Excerpts from the letter, along with English translations, are included below:
“Desde que llegamos a la prisión todos nos sentimos confundidos ya que llegamos a pedir ayuda, no a caer a prisión.” | “Since we arrived to this prison we have remained confused because we came here seeking help, not to be locked in prison.”
“Algunos de mis compañeros no saben ni siquiera quién es su deportador físicamente, sólo se comunican por medio de la tablet o mandan reemplazo a otro oficial.” | “Some of my friends don’t even know what their deportation officer looks like and can only communicate with them through the tablets but then that officer is replaced.”
“Nos cortan las llamadas cuando estamos hablando con nuestros familiares.” | “Our calls are always being cut short when we call our family members.”
The severity of the situation at Torrance is well documented in recent complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. 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 letter continues:
“Al cambiarnos de pabellón llegamos al 7D y lo encontramos en malas condiciones. Estaba muy sucio, muchos zancudos, muchas moscas, los baños llenos de hongos y las celdas ni se diga. Nos tocó a nosotros mismos ponernos a limpiar.” | “When we were moved to pod 7D we found it in very poor condition. It was filthy, lots of mosquitos, lots of flies, the bathrooms covered in mold, and the cells go without saying. We were tasked with cleaning it ourselves.”
“A muchos de mis compañeros les da miedo ir al psicólogo para pedir ayuda por el miedo de ser encerrados y amarrados en un cuarto frío y sin una alimentación adecuada. Ya se llevaron dos compañeros y no sabemos nada de ellos hace 3 días.” | “Many of my friends feel afraid to go to the psychologist to seek help because they are scared they will be locked up and tied up in a cold room without adequate food. This is what happened to two of our friends and we haven’t heard anything about them in three days.”
The letter was signed by over a dozen men at Torrance, and includes calls for ICE to stop violating their human rights and to cease the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers by CoreCivic. You can view the handwritten letter here.
Orlando de los Santos Evangelista*, a man from the Dominican Republic who is among the detained individuals engaged in a hunger strike, issued the following statement:
“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 fact that we don't have basic necessities like water, food, safety, sanitary facilities, adequate medical attention, any show of human decency by guards or the chance to talk to our loved ones, not to mention going outside or information in our languages about anything, especially about when it will ever end, means one thing: there is no respect for human dignity at Torrance County Detention Facility or in the immigration process in New Mexico. For these reasons we continue our hunger strike and will continue to do so until Torrance County Detention Facility is shut down and we are all freed.”
*Audio statement from Orlando de los Santos Evangelista available upon request.
**The ACLU of New Mexico and other immigrant rights organizations were asked by people detained at the Torrance County Detention Facility to publicly share the announcement of their hunger strike and their collective letter. We are sharing this press release to support the free speech rights and self-advocacy work of people in ICE detention in our state.**