Media Contact

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center,

June 17, 2024

NEW MEXICO – Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (LAIAC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and other oversight agencies on behalf of five Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center clients unlawfully forced into solitary confinement at the Otero Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico. The complaint can be viewed here.

The five asylum seekers from Venezuela refused to agree to their removal to Mexico due to their fear of serious harm in Mexico. In direct retaliation, ICE officers and guards placed them in solitary confinement, along with 17 to 28 other individuals and other unlawful practices and force, without providing any explanation.

The Otero Processing Center has violated management, safety, food, and religious service standards numerous times. Both the ACLU-NM and LAIAC have lawsuits and complaints documenting these abuses. The groups have also written demand letters on behalf of immigrants detained there, exposing the rampant abuses at the prison.

For years, we have been sounding the alarm about Otero's history of abuse. Since this prison was established, thousands of asylum seekers have endured inhumane conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and widespread violations of due process within its walls,” said Zoe Bowman, supervising attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “Not only is the use of solitary confinement cruel and has a severe impact on immigrant individuals and their communities, but Otero staff have also failed to comply with ICE guidelines and directives regarding the practice. We demand that ICE release these individuals from custody into safety and stop using solitary confinement as a way to punish and coerce people.” 

“ICE’s retaliatory actions at Otero Processing Center are not only inhumane but illegal,” said Max Brooks, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico. “Solitary confinement causes severe psychological harm, and it is deeply concerning that ICE and MTC would use such a harmful practice to bully Venezuelans into agreeing to be deported to a country where they face grave danger. Their misuse of solitary confinement underscores the broader systemic issues within ICE detention facilities. These punitive measures must end, and we urge immediate action to protect the rights and dignity of those detained.”