Politics

‘Clear and utter disregard’: Immigrants file complaint over hazardous conditions at private facility

Like multiple immigration prisons all around the country, Imperial is also experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, further endangering the lives of detained immigrants. Per ICE’s data, 64 immigrants there have tested positive as of Jan. 24. “What is more, detained migrants, including some complainants, say they have witnessed in the last two weeks how at least one MTC employee was ordered to stay at work despite looking visibly sick,” the release continued.

Freedom for Immigrants, Innovation Law Lab, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, Desert Support for Asylum Seekers, Earthjustice, and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity say in the complaint that detainee testimonies “demonstrate a clear and utter disregard for the safety, well-being, and respect of those detained by ICE and MTC at Imperial.”

We also already know that ICE and MTC have contempt for people under their watch. “DHS inspectors found ICE detainees who were kept In solitary confinement for 300 days,” BuzzFeed News reported in 2020. Nearly a dozen immigrants were thrown in solitary, which is torture, for a period of more than two months. That site was Imperial.

Groups representing immigrants in the civil rights complaint said MTC—which has a reported annual revenue of nearly $670 million—has also abused immigrants at facilities in New Mexico and Texas. “In Jan. 2021, advocates published a report on MTC’s Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico, documenting myriad ​​medical issues and a lack of access to legal resources.” Later that year, asylum-seeker Elba Maria Centeno Briones “died from COVID-19 complications while in the custody of MTC’s El Valle Detention Facility, in Raymondville, Texas.” 

Immigrants also have a history of being slowly poisoned while under ICE’s watch, following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warning another private prison profiteer, GEO Group, about the misuse of a toxic chemical at a Washington facility last year. Another EPA probe before that found GEO Group violated the law at a California facility.

“Migrants at Imperial are subjected to uniquely dangerous living conditions due to a combination of poor ventilation and air filtration at the facility, as well as the toxic environmental pollution in Imperial County, which includes high levels of deadly air pollutants like ozone and particulate matter,” Earthjustice Toxic Exposure and Health Program staff scientist Rashmi Joglekar said. “These pollutants have been linked to devastating health impacts, even at short-term, low levels of exposure, including respiratory distress, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.”




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