An ICE detention center in Arizona used excessive force and chemical agents against immigrants, a watchdog report alleges

An ICE detention center in Arizona used excessive force and chemical agents against immigrants, a watchdog report alleges
The La Palma Correctional Center, as seen in the DHS report.Department of Homeland Security
  • Awatchdog report found instances of excessive force, neglect, and abuse at DHS facility in Arizona.
  • Facility staff also used chemical agents and pepper spray against the detainees, the report said.
  • The facility also didn't abide by COVID-19 guidelines, putting migrants at risk.

An immigration facility in Arizona used excessive force, verbally abused immigrants, and neglected their medical needs, according to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

A team from the inspector general's office inspected the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, between August and November of 2020 and "identified serious concerns regarding detainee care and treatment," according to a report.

The report said facility staff used chemical agents - including pepper spray, pepper balls, and other agents - against protesting detainees.

The report includes images from surveillance video at the faciltiy, which is run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The photos show staff using chemical agents on detainees, and failing to enforce COVID-19 guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing.


It also documented several instances of verbal abuse. One officer "used profane and abusive language to ridicule a detainee," and another officer used a racial slur against a detainee and hung up his phone call with relatives.

ICE did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, but the agency pushed back against the report's allegations in a formal response to the inspector general.

"ICE has significant concerns about the accuracy of the findings in the OIG's draft report," the response said. It added that the findings "rely on uncorroborated allegations by detainees" and that the inspector general's audit team did not interview ICE or the contracting facility representatives involved in two of the use of force incidents.

ICE also said the report "omits necessary context in several instances," including the allegations that the medical unit was understaffed. ICE said despite the fact that just 51 of 72 medical positions were staffed, the staffing level of 72 positions was designed for a much higher detainee population of 2,340 - the average daily population during the inspector general's audit was just 1,542.

The report comes amid growing scrutiny of the government's handling of immigrants in detention.


A recent influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the US-Mexico border has stoked concerns about the practice and morality of detaining minors in government-run facilities.

The immigrants in the La Palma facility, however, are distinct from the current wave of migrants approaching the border. The children at the border are first detained by the Customs and Border Protection agency and await transfer to shelters, then are eventually placed with relatives or sponsors while their immigration cases are processed. The La Palma facility houses adult male detainees apprehended by ICE, and who have been deemed illegally present in the US and may be deported.