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ACLU demands from Mayorkas.
ACLU demands from Mayorkas. Photo: Getty Images.

ACLU demands Mayorkas and DHS close more immigrant detention facilities

The demand was made in a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sept. 6.

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is once again being asked by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a letter sent on Sept. 6, to close more immigrant detention centers, including the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico. 

“While we appreciate that DHS has since closed a handful of facilities, far more must be done to reduce detention and curb wasteful government spending that overwhelmingly benefits private prison corporations. We write today to urge you to make progress by closing more ICE detention sites, without further delay. Appalling conditions at ICE detention centers — including conditions that have continued to deteriorate during your tenure as Secretary — warrant immediate closure,” the letter read. 

Federal Policy Director Christopher Anders and Senior Legislative Counsel Naureen Shah pointed to Torrance as an example of a detention center that is not properly managed and subjects its detainees to horrid conditions. 

“We also urge you to close the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, Karnes County Residential Center and the Berks Family Residential Center, where residents, including women and young children, have faced sexual abuse and medical neglect. In light of their history of abuse, these facilities should not remain open in any form — and should not be kept on standby in case a subsequent administration seeks to use them for large-scale detention of families,” the letter said. 

Along with the horrid conditions, they also pointed out the recent suicide that occured at Torrance by a Brazilian asylum seeker, Kesley Vial. DHS Office of the Inspector General also released a report this past March documenting with photographs as well of the living conditions of detainees. This includes understaffing, terrible cell conditions, and a lack of basic medical care. 

“Torrance is critically understaffed, which has prevented the facility from meeting contractual requirements that ensure detainees reside in a safe, secure, and humane environment. We recommend the immediate relocation of all detainees from the facility unless and until the facility ensures adequate staffing and appropriate living conditions,” the letter read.

“Yet Torrance has remained open and the atrocious conditions persist — while CoreCivic, its private operator, continues to profit from this ICE contract. Indeed, ICE detains four out of five people in facilities owned or operated by private prison corporations, according to our most recent analysis,” it continued.

This is not the first time that the ACLU has asked the DHS about the issue of closing detention centers. Back in 2021, the organization called on the head of DHS to close down 39 of the worst and most infamous facilities first. Mayorkas only closed two of them. In May 2021, he announced that he and his administration would continuously review and monitor the status and conditions of the detention facilities. 

“We have an obligation to make lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system — This marks an important first step to realizing that goal. DHS detention facilities and the treatment of individuals in those facilities will be held to our health and safety standards. Where we discover they fall short, we will continue to take action as we are doing today,” Mayorkas said.

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