Following two surprise visits in May 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to an immigration detention center in El Paso, OIG issued a report concerning the severe overcrowding taking place at the facility. OIG found the level of congestion to be so substantial as to pose a risk to the health and safety of the immigrants housed in the facility.
OIG detailed some of their most shocking findings in its detailed report about El Paso Del Norte immigration processing center, as follows:
- Some people were held in “standing room” only cells for weeks, although they generally should not be detained for more than 72 hours
- Individuals had limited access to showers and clean clothes, wearing the same clothing for days or even weeks
- One cell designed to hold 35 people held 155 people, and another designed to hold eight people held 45; overall, the facility, which has a capacity of 125, was holding 900 people at one point
OIG reiterated throughout its report that DHS officials should take immediate action to resolve these issues. They cited fears of rising tensions among the detained persons that could lead to violence, as well as the spread of infectious diseases and illnesses.
In response, DHS officials stated that they were not equipped to handle the current influx of immigrants. However, DHS advised OIG that it was operating an additional climate-controlled soft-sided structure at the site that could hold up to an additional 500 people. Officials reportedly will open a new holding facility in El Paso to house up to 800 people, and in about 18 months, intend to open a new processing center to hold an additional 1,800 people. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 399-2311 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.