ICE’s ‘Fierce Commitment’ To Ensuring Detainees Are Cared For Properly Includes Inadequate Staffing, Unsanitary Facilities

from the inhumane dept

ICE has never really cared about the people it detains and processes for removal. It cared even less when President Trump made it clear he believed anyone less white and privileged than he is deserved to be excluded from the “American dream.”

Trump claimed he wanted the “worst of the worst” removed to make America “safer.” Then he decided he just wanted any non-white foreigners removed, stoking the flames of xenophobia by claiming people illegally in this country were more dangerous than lifelong residents, despite a mountain of evidence indicating the opposite.

ICE threw itself into its work. And it threw a bunch of people into detention facilities. Those efforts garnered it worldwide criticism and some some federal lawsuits. Internal investigations of ICE by the DHS Inspector General showed many accusations against the agency were true: ICE was cramming people into overcrowded facilities and denying them access to their rights.

These shots are from a 2020 Inspector General’s inspection of an El Paso, Texas detention facility.

It’s 2022 and there’s a new president in office. Things have not improved. An investigation [PDF] of the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico shows ICE still believes it’s in the business of handling livestock, rather than actual human beings.

One problem? Way more detainees than government employees capable of handling them. Understaffing isn’t acceptable, especially when there are supposed national security issues on the line. ICE (and its private prison partner CoreCivic) have had plenty of time to fix this. Neither party has.

The ICE contract for Torrance requires specific staffing levels for the safety and security of detainees. At designated staffing levels the facility should have 245 full-time staff. At the time of our inspection, Torrance was at 54 percent of required staffing, with 133 full-time employees. Torrance has 112 staffing vacancies, with the majority (94 positions) in the area of security.

ICE issued a Contract Discrepancy Report in December 2020 related to medical staffing shortages, but the report also indicated that staffing issues extended beyond medical vacancies. ICE warned the facility that the Contract Discrepancy Report may be expanded to include other staffing areas that are currently showing critical shortages. [Torrance] is not at 95% staffing levels across the board and a comprehensive plan needs to be developed to meet these shortages. Nevertheless, Torrance continues to remain severely understaffed over 1 year later, requiring current staff to work a minimum of six overtime shifts per month to help bridge the gap.

ICE’s contractor can’t fill these vacancies, despite offering subsidized housing and other incentives for employees who would most likely be required to drive an hour from the nearest major city (Albuquerque). Rather than find ways to limit the facility’s intake of detainees to keep the limited staff from being further stretched, CoreCivic and ICE decided to start skimping on the necessities of life.

Torrance houses ICE detainees in 8 of their 11 housing units. We reviewed all 157 cells in the 8 housing units holding detainees and found 83 detainee cells (roughly 53 percent) with plumbing issues, including toilets and sinks that were inoperable, clogged, or continuously cycling water…


In addition, we encountered mold and water leaks throughout the facility… These issues exacerbate unsanitary conditions and can lead to slips and falls by detainees or facility staff. Further, it could also lead to health issues for both detainees and staff breathing in the mold. Work orders showed that most problems we observed during our inspection went unresolved for 12 or more days.

Then there are the security problems. Supervision is nearly nonexistent. Sight lines from control rooms to holding cells are obstructed. Blind spots are numerous. Much of the job is handed over to unmonitored cameras which can only provide evidence of something that has already happened, rather than allow staffers to address problems as they arise or head off escalations. Detainee control was also apparently achieved with the use of electronic door systems, according to ICE, an assertion that means nothing when supposedly “locked” doors were left ajar.

The Inspector General’s recommendation is harsh but fair:

We recommend the immediate relocation of all detainees from the facility unless and until the facility ensures adequate staffing and appropriate living conditions.

ICE (and, presumably CoreCivic, which gets paid more the more detainees it houses) disagrees with this recommendation. Its lengthy response contains plenty of literally incredible assertions and accusations that the DHS IG staged photos to misrepresent the condition of the facility.

As for the former (the disagreement with the assessment,) it’s par for the course for an agency that routinely fails to live up to even its own internal standards. As for the accusations the Office of the Inspector General falsified information… whoo, boy. It certainly would help ICE to be any other agency than ICE, which has been the target of plenty of confirmed abuse allegations over the years.

The response, penned by acting ICE Chief of Staff Jason Houser, opens with a literally unbelievable claim:

ICE is fiercely committed to ensuring that noncitizens residing in its custody reside in safe, secure, and humane environments, and under appropriate conditions of confinement.

This is conclusively false. See also: this, this, this, this, this, and this.

More seriously, ICE accuses the IG of staging the photo of a detainee obtaining drinking water from a floor mop sink as part of the evidence that regular sinks are not working properly. In response to the IG noting that hot water handles are broken (and have apparently not been repaired), ICE insists hot water would have run out of the only operable taps (the cold water ones) if investigators had simply waited longer.

The draft report at p. 4 states that some faucets did not produce hot water. In fact, during the inspection ICE informed the OIG inspector that, like many faucets, the hot water takes some time to arrive in a faucet that starts cold. The inspector, however, declined to run the tap to determine if that was true.


Please. The complaint in the OIG report refers to taps where the hot water tap handle had been broken off. No amount of running cold water would turn it hot. And the photo being complained about by ICE shows a broken handle, not a sink with two working handles no inspector could be persuaded to run until hot.

Rebuttals work better when you’re credible, ICE. Good luck talking your way out of yet another completely unsurprising report that the agency treats “noncitizens” like subhumans. ICE is an agency with an alarming tendency to go rogue. This report shows why the new administration needs to rein it in, reform it, and make it better before another leader of the free world takes the helm and starts fucking things up again.

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Companies: corecivic

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Comments on “ICE’s ‘Fierce Commitment’ To Ensuring Detainees Are Cared For Properly Includes Inadequate Staffing, Unsanitary Facilities”

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Anonymous Coward says:

If Trumps ambition was to collect the ‘worst of the worst’, then it has kind of sort of succeeded.

I mean, we clearly have a large collection of terrible humans in ICE.

No, I don’t mean detained by ICE.

But since Trump made no attempt (at least that I ever heard) to have ICE itself deported, we can see that it was all performative.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Tom says:

Imigration detention and deportation

The racist comments in the article are uncalled for and lies. Stopping the flow of illegals is not race based it based on the economics of welfare and the drain on local government budgets of uninvited people and the crimes they commit. The article makes it appear Trump was racist motivated in his immigration policies and that is just not true although liberals like to make believe it is. Liberal fantasy needs to be stopped.

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