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Lawmakers Could Create A Window Into ICE Detention Facilities In N.M.

Ed Williams / KUNM
Fenceline of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, N.M., where hundreds of Central American people were detained in 2014.

Nationally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 42,000 people in custody on average on any given day last year. People leaving ICE detention often say conditions were bad, and they were abused or didn’t get enough to eat. Some New Mexico lawmakers are carrying a bill that might create a window into ICE facilities here.

ICE detention centers are under the control of the federal government, and many of them are run by private companies, making it hard for anyone to get information about potential human rights violations inside. Five local legislators—including Rep. Micaela Cadena—are sponsoring a bill that could make it so ICE centers could be inspected and monitored by the state. "When we think about facilities operating within our state," she said, "we want to make sure inmates and staff that are doing the important work inside these facilities are safe."

The state’s Corrections Department says the bill doesn’t add money for these inspections, so it creates an unfunded mandate, though overall, the department is likely to see a budget increase this year. There are two facilities used regularly for ICE detention in New Mexico—Cibola County and Otero County—and both are run by corporations.

Around the country, government inspectors have reported thousands of violations of detention standards, but according to a January report from Homeland Security’s inspector general, fines to the private companies running them have only been issued twice.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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