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DHS new report finds Otay Mesa Detention Facility violated ICE standards

Trump administration moves to detain migrant families longer
Posted at 6:04 PM, Sep 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-19 09:31:38-04

OTAY MESA, Calif. (KGTV) -- For years, controversy has surrounded conditions and actions by the Otay Mesa Detention Facility.

On September 14, the Department of Homeland Security released a report that found the detention facility did not follow standards and did not enforce COVID-19 safety measures.

The new report filed by the Inspector General's Office outlines seven recommendations they are asking the facility to follow.

Otay Mesa Detention Facility, along with ICE, has complied with six of the seven. The report, according to DHS, is a result of unannounced inspections the office conducted from February to April of this year.

As seen on page 3 of the report, the DHS found that the Otay Mesa Detention Facility violated ICE standards regarding the health and safety of detainees.

Among the list were improper COVID-19 protocols, not allowing detainees to file grievances, improper response to those concerns, and not providing services like phone calls.

DHS, in turn, outlined seven recommendations that Core Civic, which is contracted by ICE to be the operator of Otay Mesa Detention Facility, to follow. Currently, one of the recommendations is resolved and closed, and five are resolved and open:

Resolved and Closed
Recommendation 1: Ensure Otay Mesa meets ICE’s COVID-19 requirements for wearing masks and social distancing.

Resolved and Open
Recommendation 2: Establish a grievance tracking system to ensure timely responses to all grievances filed at Otay Mesa.

Recommendation 3: Ensure Otay Mesa forwards all staff misconduct complaints to ICE ERO, as required.

Recommendation 4: Provide detainees in segregation access to laundry, legal materials, mail, required recreation time outside their cell, and the commissary (for those in administrative segregation).

Recommendation 5: Provide detainees full access to a secure drop-box for ICE requests and verify that ICE responds timely to such requests.

Recommendation 6: Ensure detainees have consistent and appropriate access to ICE ERO deportation officers including identifying time, duration, and location of ICE facility visits.

Core Civic, as seen in the report, agreed with all except one.

Unresolved and Open
Recommendation 7: Update ICE’s contract with Otay Mesa to better identify housing requirements and determine if guaranteed minimums are necessary.

The DHS stated in their report that once ICE provides a revised housing plan that reduces exposure to COVID-19 the recommendation will close. They also said at the end of the recommendation, which is unresolved and open, that ICE should also review contracting options if populations remain well under the guaranteed minimums outlined in the contract.

Core Civic was unable to speak with ABC 10News on Saturday, but they did release a statement which said:

"We value the feedback we get from our government partners and strive to be responsive to their concerns. In terms of this report's recommendations, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that all but one have been resolved, and the final one was an area where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) didn't concur with the OIG. We will continue to work hard to provide a safe and healthy environment for those entrusted to our care."

An ACLU-SDIC Immigrants' Rights Staff Attorney released the below statements:

“The DHS Office of Inspector General’s recent report about the Otay Mesa Detention Center is yet one more piece of evidence in the mounting list of reports of unsafe and abusive conditions of confinement that facility. ICE and CoreCivic have proven time and again that they are unable to respect the humanity and uphold the due process rights of the people trapped inside. The practices documented in this report confirm that once more. Meanwhile, the purely profit-driven motivations of private prison companies mean that U.S. taxpayers pay CoreCivic for incarceration that is inhumane and, as this report proves, unnecessary, while the corporation takes a windfall."
“The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and many others have filed lawsuits, published reports, filed complaints with oversight agencies, and otherwise documented abuses at the facility for years. Today, the ACLU-SDIC reiterates its earlier demand that the Biden administration shut down Otay Mesa once and for all. This would be a step towards bringing an end to the shameful practice of detaining immigrants in our region and across the country, and instead embracing policies of humane and fair processing. Shutting down Otay Mesa is the only way to guarantee the mistreatment and misconduct that has plagued the facility for decades never puts another person in harm’s way.”

The Otay Mesa Detention Facility in partnership with Core Civic has had a history of grievances.

The first one ABC 10News recorded was from back in 2018, when a lawsuit was filed by 2 detainees, who said they were forced to work under threat of punishment or threat of going into solitary confinement. Core Civic had said they could not provide comment on the matter but assured they provided a safe work environment.

In April of 2020, two lawsuits were filed over inadequate supplies during COVID-19. The lawsuits alleged that detainees were not provided masks or gloves. Core Civic responded saying they had been providing proper PPE and abided by all safety measures that were in compliance with CDC guidelines.

Most recently in June of 2020, the ACLU fired at ICE officials claiming that detainees could not make phone calls. Detainees had told various civil rights activist groups that they could reportedly no longer make phone calls to certain immigrant rights activists. Core Civic had responded saying that they were curbing disruptive behavior as they were concerned for the safety of those inside. They furthered that they provided fair access to phones, and detainees could make free calls and had free providers.