“Defendants responded to the individual Plaintiffs’ peaceful hunger strike by terrorizing them and attacking them with several canisters and grenades of oleoresin capsicum (‘OC’ ) spray, or pepper spray, a harmful chemical agent that irritates the eyes, skin, and respiratory passages,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants deployed the chemical agent in a poorly ventilated space and confined the individual Plaintiffs by blocking the exits while they screamed and choked.”
“Many of the individual plaintiffs were not allowed to shower until days after the attack, causing rashes and burning sensations on their skin,” the lawsuit said. “When they were finally able to shower, they were not given instructions on how to properly rinse.” This reactivated the chemical agent, causing further pain. The complaint said that the facility also cut off their access to their commissary accounts for a month, which blocks detained people from being able to access basic necessities.
“Two of the plaintiffs, who have a history of mental illness, attempted suicide in the aftermath of the incident,” organizations continued. CoreCivic has also attacked detained immigrants with chemical agents in other facilities, like Arizona’s La Palma Correctional Center in early 2020. These are not isolated incidents. They are a system-wide stain.
Torrance also has a record of anti-Black abuses, repeatedly denying Haitian asylum-seekers the “minimal standards of access to legal support,” advocacy groups said in November. “In addition to ICE’s denial of their access to legal support, local groups have observed court dockets for Black migrants from Haiti moving disproportionately fast, leading to unfair, rapid deportation orders,” groups said in another complaint earlier that month.
“Haitian detainees describe poor food, inadequate medical care, and mistreatment, common to Torrance and ICE detention centers nationwide, as well as insufficient access to information in Haitian Kreyol, which together amount to racist discrimination and violate even ICE’s own standards,” the groups said.
Torrance is so bad that that the DHS inspector general, in an unprecedented move, has recommended the “immediate removal” of all detained immigrants at the facility. “During our inspection, we found such egregious conditions in the facility that we are issuing this management alert to notify ICE,” the inspector general said on March 16. “We have determined that ICE must take immediate steps to address the critical facility staffing shortages and unsanitary living conditions that have led to health and safety risks for detainees at Torrance.”
But ICE, which has a history of lying about immigrants, instead accused inspectors of being the real liars. Shameless.
“We are shocked but not surprised by the findings in the OIG report describing dangerous, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility,” ACLU of New Mexico Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Sheff said. “We call upon ICE to immediately release, not transfer, all the people detained there, allowing them to reunite with their loved ones and receive the community-based resources and care they urgently need.”
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