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ICE Faces Claims of Abuse and Poor Conditions at Facilities

Nearly two years after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas vowed zero tolerance for poor conditions at migrant detention facilities, and after years of investigations, calls to action and pledges to improve, advocates say conditions are getting worse, the Hill reports. Detention center operators, both Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its private contractors such as CoreCivic and the GEO Group, have faced consistent reports of abuse, neglect and mismanagement. One location, the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, N.M., received such poor marks in a September inspection that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General “recommended, and continue[s] to recommend, the immediate relocation of all Torrance detainees unless and until the facility ensures adequate staffing and appropriate living conditions.” Yet ICE continued to send detainees to the facility, bringing in upwards of 200 new people starting on Christmas Eve.

An investigation conducted by the Innovation Law Lab at Torrance between January and February and released Wednesday found “the men are subjected to conditions worse than those that formed the basis for the DHS Office of the Inspector General’s recommendation to end operations at Torrance in March 2022.” Informed by first-hand accounts of detainees, the report found “a disturbing picture of the conduct of US Government officials and CoreCivic employees who manage the facility day to day.” A CoreCivic spokesman called the report "inaccurate and misleading," and a GEO spokesman called other complaints "part of a politically motivated and choreographed effort to abolish ICE." But reports of detainee mistreatment in immigration detention are so widespread and commonplace that advocates say non-criminal immigration detention itself is the problem. “As long as the U.S. government has been jailing people as part of the immigration process, it’s been a concern,” said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center. The practice of keeping non-criminal immigrants in detention has been condemned both domestically and internationally, because it subjects people without criminal charges to prison-like conditions for indeterminate amounts of time. According to TRAC, ICE had 24,170 detainees at the end of January, 14,732 of whom had no criminal charges or records. Many of those detainees complain about living conditions, cruel treatment, food, and alleged overuse of solitary confinement and diminished or lack of access to the asylum process.


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