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The KUNM news team's coverage of the 2020 legislative session and its impacts

YNMG & COVID: ICE Detention, Migrants And Refugees

Bryce Dix / KUNM
A young demonstrator at the #CloseTheCamps protest in July 2019.

Episode 39 is focused on migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in our communities, and on Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, which are often overcrowded around the United States and are criticized for bad medical care. ICE announced it will review cases one-by-one and release vulnerable people. Officials and advocates say that's not anywhere near fast enough as COVID cases are cropping up around the country in ICE detention centers, and outbreaks in them could overwhelm regional hospitals.

We hear from Arifa Raza from the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center about what people inside detention centers are facing. Rep. Debra Haaland tells us about the coalition of congresspeople calling for the release of nonviolent people being detained, and the urgent public health problem outbreaks in detention facilities would create for all of us. Allegra Love, an attorney with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project tells us about clients calling the lawyers she works with pleading for their lives. 

Marian Méndez-Cera from El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos brings the conversation to front-line workers who are migrants, but who are being skipped by federal aid. And Nkazi Sinandile tells us about the problems facing the African families her organization—the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village of Albuquerque—including one family that was being evicted as the interview took place despite a state Supreme Court order banning rent-based evictions in New Mexico. 

And Mariela Ruiz-Angel from the Albuquerque's Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs talks about outreach efforts by the city. She also says ICE is still arresting and detaining people across the U.S. even though the situation at detention centers is deteriorating with regard to COVID-19 infections. 

We reached out to ICE for an interview. They declined, saying they're not talking about letting people out of detention during the pandemic or about conditions inside detention centers at this time. A spokesperson there offered some information on background and pointed us to this page about ICE guidance on COVID.

And a news update:  The ACLU of New Mexico issued a news release Wednesday, April 8, calling federal, state and county leaders’ response to concerns about COVID and the ICE detention centers in the state "inadequate." New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall wrote a letter on Thursday, April 9, to Homeland Security and ICE imploring them to release people from detention, citing a "deep" public health threat, overcrowding, and lack of humane hygiene and sanitation. He also highlighted that ICE told a House committee it has no contingency plan if COVID-19 patients from detention centers overwhelm regional hospitals. Sen. Martin Heinrich, in a written statement, is calling for an investigation into ICE detention centers about preparation, equipment and policies. 

We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub


  • Find info about coronavirus in many languages on the city's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Facebook page.
  • El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos offers up a fact sheet in Spanish about understanding unemployment benefits right now. 
  • Donate to a relief fund for local families who are undocumented at NMdreamteam.org
  • Nationally, the Detention Watch Network is pushing for people to be released from ICE detention
  • A quick search on GoFundMe reveals many local campaigns with specific aims helping refugees and immigrants who live in our community. 

How are things going for you? We want to know. Share your quarantine stories by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We could roll them into a future episode.


Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, and the New Mexico Local News Fund. 

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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