Violations of ICE Detention Standards at Otay Mesa Detention Center
During our unannounced inspection of Otay Mesa in San Diego, California, we identified violations of ICE detention standards that compromised the health, safety, and rights of detainees. Otay Mesa complied with standards for classification and generally provided sufficient medical care to detainees. In addressing COVID-19, Otay Mesa did not consistently enforce precautions including use of facial coverings and social distancing. Overall, we found that Otay Mesa did not meet standards for grievances, segregation, or staff-detainee communications. Specifically, Otay Mesa did not respond timely to detainee grievances and did not forward staff misconduct grievances to ICE as required. In addition, Otay Mesa was not consistently providing required services for detainees in segregation including access to recreation, legal calls, laundry, linen exchange, mail, legal materials, commissary, and law library. Further, ICE did not consistently respond to detainee requests timely and did not specify times for visits with detainees. Finally, we determined the declining detainee population at Otay Mesa caused ICE to pay more than $22 million for unused bed space under a guaranteed minimum contract. We made seven recommendations to ICE’s Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations to ensure the San Diego ERO Field Office overseeing Otay Mesa addresses identified issues and ensures facility compliance with relevant detention standards. ICE concurred with six recommendations and non-concurred with one recommendation.