Almost 400 protesters gathered outside the Eloy detention center near Florence on Friday. They came from all over the country from different human rights groups, churches and even veterans organizations.
The group is rallying against what they call "inhumane conditions" inside the Eloy detention center.
The protest marks the beginning of the SOA Watch group, a non-violent grassroots movement.
"The Eloy detention center is the deadliest center in the U.S.," said Maria Castro, an immigration rights activist with Puente, Arizona.
She said their volunteers who have been able to get inside the prison to meet with detainees reported a lack of adequate medical care and other abuses.
"People are being abused by being thrown into "solitary" a hole for punishment for just even speaking out about injustices," said Castro.
The group is demanding accountability from the federal government.
"It's really important they know they're not above the law and that aside from everything, these people are human and deserve all of their human rights."
Church groups from all over the country took part in the protest. Many said it was a first for them to visit a border community and see what’s happening with their own eyes.
Advocacy groups are especially concerned about the number of suicides in the Eloy facility, 9% of all detention center facility deaths in the U.S. It has prompted Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva to call for an independent inquiry.
ABC15 reached out to the Department of Homeland Security to find out what was being done to address concerns raised by advocates. A spokeswoman sent us this statement:
“U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is committed to ensuring the welfare of those in custody. Consistent with that commitment, the agency has a zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior in its facilities. The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigate all allegations of abuse or other misconduct and take appropriate action when such allegations are substantiated.
Like all facilities authorized to hold detainees for more than 72 hours, the Eloy Detention Center is subject to rigorous and regular inspections. The facility, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, meets the agency’s 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards, the most stringent operating requirements currently imposed by ICE. Over the last year, the facility has undergone three comprehensive inspections, including a reaccreditation review by the American Correctional Association. Any compliance issues identified during such inspections must be promptly addressed through a correction action plan.
ICE takes the death of any individual that occurs in the agency’s custody very seriously. Under the agency’s protocols, a detainee death triggers an immediate internal inquiry into the circumstances. There are suicide prevention posters in English and Spanish posted in the Eloy Detention Center, as well as bilingual posters highlighting the phone number to report any concerns to the DHS Office of Inspector General. Additionally, there are phones available in the facility with direct lines to every consulate that detainees can utilize toll-free to reach out to the consular representatives from their countries.
ICE managers and detention center staff communicate with detainees regularly. Additionally, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) has set up a toll-free line to afford agency stakeholders a means to communicate directly with ERO to address questions and resolve concerns.
Consistent with its mission, ICE remains focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes threats to national security, public safety, and border security.
The agency fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion within the confines of the law.”