SAN DIEGO — A federal grand jury on Thursday charged 12 detainees with attacking guards during a March 9 riot at an immigration holding facility in El Centro.
The suspects, from five different nations, were charged with assaulting federal officers. Three were also charged with using a dangerous weapon.
The violence broke out in two barracks housing 156 detainees at the Immigration and Naturalization Service facility. Four guards from a private contract firm were assaulted. Detainees barricaded themselves inside overnight until FBI negotiators talked them into surrendering.
It was the second riot at the center in two months, fueling anxieties that such facilities were being flooded with dangerous detainees due to a new U.S. law aimed at deporting immigrants convicted of crimes. Almost all of the detainees in El Centro are convicted criminals. California has two INS detention facilities; the other is in San Pedro.
Six of the detainees charged Thursday were born in Mexico and three in El Salvador. The others were from Somalia, Guatemala and Cambodia.