Anti-Detention Facility Organizations Clash with Torrance County Commissioners

Anti-Detention Facility Organizations Clash with Torrance County Commissioners
Torrance County Government Offices - Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch

At the March 13, 2024, meeting of the Torrance County Commissioners, business was as usual until public comment began. During public comment, representatives from the Immigration Law Lab and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center discussed alleged conditions at the Torrance County Detention Facility.

Aurora Arreola, the Policy Program Manager for the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, stated that “individuals detained at [the] Torrance County Detention Facility are not treated as members of society, or rather as sub-human, as articulated by former inmates. They indicate, ‘they treat us as animals.’” Arreola claimed immigration detainees were subjected to inhumane conditions such as inadequate medical care limited to over-the-counter medicines, dismal food quality, a denial of due process of law, lack of adequate interpretation services, and a lack of privacy.

Following Arreola, Tiffany Wong, a law student interning at the Immigration Law Lab, provided public comment. Wong claimed that detainees were subject to “multiple sewage floods in the past few months” that detainees were forced to clean without personal protective equipment. Wong also said that detainees who reported suicidal thoughts to the staff were “stripped naked, given a smock, isolated in a frigid room, and fed carrots for their meals until medical staff decided the thoughts had passed.”

County Commissioner Sam Schropp responded to the public comments from Arreola and Wong by referencing his inspections of the Torrance County Detention Facility (TCDF) over the course of 2023 and 2024, during which, he said, Schropp did not observe the conditions that Arreola and Wong claimed to exist. Schropp said that the sewage flooding occurred in 2022, not 2024. “The conditions which have been reported here today are from 2022, and since I’ve been in office since March of 2023, I have found none of them. I have investigated in real time, claims of abuse and mistreatment that were related to me by Ariel Prado [a representative of Immigration Law Lab] and found them to be untrue or exaggeration.”

County Commission Chairman Ryan Schwebach said he concurred with Schropp, and then threatened to eliminate public comment via Zoom because of the statements made by Arreola and Wong. “Concerning that prison, there’s a lot of misinformation in [those statements]. And very untrue. With that being said, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t have to allow Zoom comment. Is that correct?” Schwebach said to an unidentified county employee. “If they want to bring us stuff like that they need to be here. I don’t know if we can or not. I’ll leave that to the [county] attorney.” Later, after the commissioners took a recess, Schwebach stated that he would not eliminate Zoom comment. “But that being said,” he continued, “A lot of the stuff you heard about the prison is not entirely accurate, and [I] encourage you to do your own due diligence and to look into it and understand where this is coming from.”

The Mountainair Dispatch submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and CoreCivic regarding medical care obtained by detainees over the course of 2013. ICE and Core Civic provided 514 pages of on-site and off-site appointment records for prisoners at multiple Albuquerque medical facilities.

What Off-Site Medical Care Was Received by TCDF Detainees?

## INFOGRAPHIC: What Healthcare Facilities Did TCDF Detainees Visit? (see attached image) Eye Associates of New Mexico - Eyeglass Fittings - Laser Eye Surgery - Retina Detachment Care - Eye Exams  Lovelace Medical Center - Surgical Optometry (retina reattachment)  New Mexico Orthopaedics - Nerve reattachment surgery  Presbyterian Healthcare System (Presbyterian Hospital and Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital) - Emergency Services - Gastrointerology - Obstetrics/Gynecology - Pulmonology - Radiology/Magnetic Resonance Imaging/Ultrasound  - Sexual Assault Examination - Urology  Rio Grande Oral Surgery - tooth extraction  - sepsis treatment  University of New Mexico Health System - Ear, Nose, and Throat Services - HIV Specialty Care (at the UNM Truman Clinic) - Opthamology - Optometry - Pulmonology - Surgery Services
Infographic of Medical Facilities and Departments Utilized by Detainees at the TCDF - Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch

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