November 18, 2022

Migrants held at Cibola County Correctional Center announce hunger strike

Immigrants housed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Cibola County Correctional Center have entered into a hunger strike and penned an open letter to protest dangerous conditions and mistreatment, according to a news release.

According to the open letter, translated into English, a migrant housed at Cibola attempted suicide in October in response to another migrant who received injury when fainting and not receiving medical attention for four hours after the incident.

ICE did not comment, except to send a link to the agency website which provides multiple guidelines to various forms of care of migrants in detention. CoreCivic, which holds a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to operate Cibola County Correctional Center, said it “takes seriously its role and responsibility” and “cares deeply about every person in its care.”

“The situations described in the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center’s recent press release regarding our Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) are neither accurate nor reflective of our policies, procedures or values. As of November 16, 2022, there has been no hunger strike at CCCC. If you seek further corroboration, please contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose officials have unfettered access to CCCC,” Ryan Gustin, director of CoreCivic Public Affairs, said.

The letter references the death by suicide of Kesley Vial, a Brazilian detainee who died by suicide in August at Torrance County Detention Facility. A group of detainees at the Torrance facility began a hunger strike, according to lawyers representing the detainees and a few who talked directly to NM Political Report, in September in response to Vial’s death. But CoreCivic and ICE both denied the Torrance facility hunger strike.

Related: Asylum seekers go on hunger strike at Torrance County Detention Facility

The letter, translated into English, from the migrants housed at the Cibola County facility states:

“This letter is to draw attention to the abhorrent conditions in which detained immigrants find themselves at the Cibola Detention Center and demand swift action for the release of the migrant detainees who are suffering racist treatment, negligence, psychological harm, torture and inadequate immigration processes.”

It says that the majority of detainees are seeking asylum and have family in the U.S. who would sponsor them if allowed to leave the facility. The letter says there have been murder attempts at the Cibola facility, as well as threats and assaults by sentenced inmates also housed there.

Other alleged abuses include extreme medical neglect, indifference, negligence, racism and abuse. Documents are not translated into the migrants’ languages and “zero attention from deportation officers,” among others.

Taylor Noya, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, said through the release there needs to be greater accountability.

“We should all be deeply ashamed that ICE detains asylum seekers all over our country, but especially in New Mexico where we have already lost too many lives to ICE’s cruelty and incompetence. We demand accountability and action, and principally that these facilities be shut down, so that there no longer be profiting off human suffering.”