ACLU Calls for Investigation, Releases after Man Dies in ICE Custody in Otero Detention Facility

Special to the Vanguard

New Mexico – Jhon Javier Benavides Quintana died on June 15 in the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, NM. Benavides Quintana, 32, was detained in civil immigration custody at the time of his death.

The ACLU is calling on ICE to conduct an immediate and impartial investigation into Benavides Quintana’s death and to publicize the results of the investigation.

According to a release, “During the investigation, ICE must halt all incoming transfers into the Otero County Processing Center and work to quickly release people detained in the facility so they can seek appropriate care.”

The ACLU added, “We further demand that ICE ensure that all detained individuals at the Otero County Processing Center have immediate access to high-quality mental health support services.”

“The heartbreaking death of Jhon Javier Benavides Quintana comes after years of evidence that MTC and ICE are unwilling and unable to detain asylum seekers and long-time immigrant residents in a safe and humane way,” said Rebecca Sheff, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of New Mexico.

They added, “It’s imperative that Benavides Quintana’s family and the community have a fair and honest explanation of what led to his death and that actions are taken to ensure no one dies in ICE custody in New Mexico or anywhere else again.”

The Otero County Processing Center has a long history of abusive mistreatment of people held there. The facility is owned by Otero County and operated by Management & Training Corporation. Last month, the ACLU of New Mexico and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center jointly submitted a civil rights complaint on behalf of a group of Venezuelans who were subjected to retaliatory solitary confinement at the facility.

The death comes around the same time as the ACLU filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and other oversight agencies on behalf of five Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center clients unlawfully forced into solitary confinement at the Otero Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico.

The complaint can be viewed here.

The five asylum seekers from Venezuela refused to agree to their removal to Mexico due to their fear of serious harm in Mexico. In direct retaliation, ICE officers and guards placed them in solitary confinement, along with 17 to 28 other individuals and other unlawful practices and force, without providing any explanation.

The Otero Processing Center has violated management, safety, food, and religious service standards numerous times. Both the ACLU-NM and LAIAC have lawsuits and complaints documenting these abuses. The groups have also written demand letters on behalf of immigrants detained there, exposing the rampant abuses at the prison.

“For years, we have been sounding the alarm about Otero’s history of abuse. Since this prison was established, thousands of asylum seekers have endured inhumane conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and widespread violations of due process within its walls,” said Zoe Bowman, supervising attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “Not only is the use of solitary confinement cruel and has a severe impact on immigrant individuals and their communities, but Otero staff have also failed to comply with ICE guidelines and directives regarding the practice. We demand that ICE release these individuals from custody into safety and stop using solitary confinement as a way to punish and coerce people.”

“ICE’s retaliatory actions at Otero Processing Center are not only inhumane but illegal,” said Max Brooks, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico. “Solitary confinement causes severe psychological harm, and it is deeply concerning that ICE and MTC would use such a harmful practice to bully Venezuelans into agreeing to be deported to a country where they face grave danger. Their misuse of solitary confinement underscores the broader systemic issues within ICE detention facilities. These punitive measures must end, and we urge immediate action to protect the rights and dignity of those detained.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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