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.
The New Mexico Immigration Law Center filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on behalf of a Nicaraguan asylum seeker, Edgar Garrido Diaz, alleging violation of his due process rights, medical neglect and abuse while housed at Cibola County Correctional Center. According to the complaint, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied Garrido Diaz’s due process rights by not providing him with a translator to help him fill out his asylum application, failing to provide him with a translator to file an appeal once denied asylum and by continuing to detain him despite a court order that should have allowed his release while he pursued asylum in the U.S.
An ICE and Department of Homeland Security public affairs officer responded that the agency was working on a response to the allegations but did not respond to NM Political Report by deadline. The complaint also alleges medical neglect because, while Garrido Diaz was detained at the facility run by CoreCivic, officers denied Garrido Diaz medical attention for 24 hours despite the fact that he tested positive for COVID-19 and suffered multiple symptoms.
Matthew Davio, public affairs manager for CoreCivic, denied the medical neglect allegations, saying that the situation described in the complaint is not “accurate nor reflective of our policies, procedures or values.”
“We vehemently deny any allegations of detainee mistreatment. There is a robust grievance process in place should a detainee ever feel that they have been treated unfairly,” he said. The complaint alleges further medical neglect because Garrido Diaz suffered an injury in early July to his knee and ankle and officers did not take him for a medical exam until two weeks later, despite Garrido Diaz’s inability to walk on the leg, the complaint states.
Citing $1 million a day of wasted federal dollars, the American Civil Liberties Union called on President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday to close 39 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities across the U.S., including the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral. The federal government has been paying for the empty bed spaces at these facilities, almost all run by privately-owned companies, which the ACLU called “wasting” taxpayer money. The ACLU established a criteria for the 39 facilities it is calling on the federal government to close. In its statement, issued Wednesday, the ACLU said that Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) was included because of its “extensive record of civil rights violations and inhumane treatment.”
The letter, sent to The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, urged the secretary to announce his intention to close ICE detention facilities across the country. “With lower ICE arrest rates and already reduced levels of detention arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE is currently paying to maintain thousands of empty beds at enormous taxpayer expense—wasting hundreds of millions of dollars that would be better spent on alternatives to detention and other programmatic priorities,” the letter states.
In the first week of July, Freddie Sanchez began to feel a hot and cold tingling sensation in his neck and back. He had been imprisoned at Cibola County Correctional Center for two years and lived in a working pod, a unit of about 40 federal inmates who work in food preparation and other jobs at the prison while awaiting trial or sentencing.
Feeling “sicker than heck,” Sanchez asked a guard about getting a COVID-19 test. He said the guard told him he was probably just withdrawing from drugs. “That’s messed up for someone to even say that,” Sanchez said.
The next week, he noticed that one of the other kitchen workers was having trouble breathing. The inmate, who had asthma, confided that he was afraid to let himself fall asleep at night for fear he might not wake up.
When the state Department of Health reported a two-day spike in COVID-19 at Cibola County Correctional Center late last month, activists and lawyers who work with detained migrants didn’t know how many had tested positive. The Milan facility, run by a private company called CoreCivic, also houses federal prisoners under U.S. Marshals Service, as well as county prisoners. “We have one of the largest immigration detention systems in the world,” said Rebekah Entralgo, media advocacy specialist for the California organization Freedom for Immigrants which works with detainees. And she said by phone that the private companies that run detention centers “thrive off secrecy.”
Allegra Love, executive director of Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which provides free legal services to immigrants, said her impression is that the migrant population at the Cibola facility is “low.”
“That information is almost impossible to get and CoreCivic isn’t compelled to tell us daily count numbers,” Love said. New Mexico’s congressional delegation sent a letter to CoreCivic last week because of the recent spike in COVID-19 at the multi-use detention center.
A small group of federal detainees held a protest on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the private company which runs the facility confirmed. Amanda Gilchrist, the director of public affairs for CoreCivic, the company that oversees the western Cibola County Correctional Center, said in a statement that the group of detainees were protesting their “quarantine status” and said the protest ended without injuries. “During the incident, these detainees blocked the pod door, covered the windows and cameras, and refused to comply with verbal directives provided by facility staff,” Gilchrist said in an email.
She added that medical staff “reviewed the individuals involved in the protest” and that guards “Successfully restored order, with no injuries occurring as a result of this incident to detainees or staff.”
In May, guards at the Torrance County Detention Facility used pepper spray to subdue detainees, Searchlight New Mexico reported. The Cibola County Correctional Center houses federal detainees, which include those detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last week, the facility saw a significant increase of COVID-19 cases.
New Mexico health officials announced 467 new cases of COVID-19, by far the most in a single day—with 170 coming from the Cibola County Correctional Center.
The report also showed continued growth in southern and eastern New Mexico. The previous record for New Mexico was 338 confirmed cases set just last week, on July 23. Now, New Mexico had its first day of more than 400 cases. The state also announced five additional deaths. In total, the state now has 19,502 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 619 deaths related to the disease.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced 121 additional COVID-19 cases and ten additional related deaths Thursday. The places with double digit numbers of new cases are three counties: Bernalillo, with 31 new cases; Doña Ana, with 18 new cases and McKinley with 14 new cases plus Otero County Prison Facility, with 17 new cases of state-held inmates who tested positive for the respiratory illness. The ten additional deaths related to COVID-19 brings that total to 420 across the state. The DOH did not give details on underlying conditions but gave basic information on each case:
A male in his 60s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized.A male in his 80s from Doña Ana County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Jim Wood Home in Hatch.A male in his 80s from McKinley County who had underlying conditions and was a patient at the Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque.A second male in his 80s from McKinley County.A female in her 80s from San Juan County who was a resident of the Life Care Center of Farmington in Farmington.A female in her 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of Beehive Homes in Farmington.A second female in her 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of Beehive Homes in Farmington.A male in his 50s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 90s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Cedar Ridge Inn facility in Farmington. The state said through its daily announcement that some numbers previously reported that were incorrect have been corrected.
The state announced the biggest single jump in daily cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 331 additional positive tests with a large part of the increase in cases coming from the Otero County Prison Facility and the northwest corner of the state. This brings the total number of cases to 8,672. This is the second day in a row when a large portion of the number of additional cases came from the Otero County Prison Facility, with 116 cases from federal inmates and 13 cases from inmates held by the state. McKinley and San Juan counties have the next highest number of additional cases, with 77 new cases in McKinley and 52 new cases in San Juan County. The state Department of Health also announced four additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths to 387.
The state Department of Health announced 108 additional test positive cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths related to the type of coronavirus. The new test positive cases brings the total number of cases of COVID-19 in the state to 7,364 and the total number of deaths related to the disease to 335. DOH released basic information about the deceased:
A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from McKinley County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. She was a resident of Red Rocks Care Center in Gallup.A male in his 20s from McKinley County was hospitalized.A male in his 50s from McKinley County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from Rio Arriba County was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 60s from San Juan County had underlying conditions. The state has processed 183,544 tests as of Thursday, an increase of 4,001 tests since Wednesday.