Undocumented Activist Infiltrates El Paso Detention Center, Documents Rampant Abuse

Video Credit: The NIYA


I don’t know how Santiago Garcia-Leco managed to get detained, given he is eligible for Barack Obama’s deferred action program. But inside the El Paso Detention Center, Santiago, a queer undocumented organizer, found hundreds of cases of asylum seekers who had won credible fear, but were detained for months to await trial. The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), joined by leading civil rights organizations such as GetEqual, Texas Civil Rights Project, and the Detention Watch Network, is demanding a full review of the detainees El Paso Detention Center.

In a video released by the NIYA, Santiago reports that “when no one is watching, ICE does whatever they want.” To give an example, he reveals how federal agents tried to get him to sign his own voluntary departure papers. Inside the detention facility in Texas, Santiago also found over 60 cases of individuals who have been granted credible fear, but denied parole into the United States, in violation of of Directive No.: 11002.1, as laid out by former ICE Director, John Morton. This directive went into effect January 4, 2010; however, the ICE leadership from the El Paso sector continues to ignore it:

“…[W]hen an arriving alien found to have credible fear establishes to the satisfaction of DRO his or her identity and that he or she presents neither a flight risk nor danger to the community, DRO should, absent additional factors, parole the alien on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest.”

NIYA organizers state that “it is alarming to hear of numerous instances where immigrants are being detained at the El Paso Detention Center despite the fact that they do not pose any security risk, are not a flight risk, and their detention is contrary to the public interest.”

This is not the first time that NIYA has infiltrated a detention center to uncover rampant abuse of detainees and immigration procedures. Marco Saavedra and Viridiana Martinez from the NIYA infiltrated Broward Detention Center in Florida last summer. Through that action, the NIYA found hundreds of cases of abuse, which led to the release of many detainees and a Congressional letter demanding review of the facility.

After NIYA revealed the identity of the infiltrator, ICE at El Paso Detention Center kicked Santiago out of the facility. If Santiago, who does not have any paperwork authorizing him to live in the U.S., can be released into the general population, why not release all the parole eligible people?

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