PHOTOS: Lawyers Describe Fear Of Retaliation At Detention Center In Artesia

Aug 17, 2014

People from across New Mexico gathered at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia Sunday to protest the detention of hundreds of Central American migrants.

Women and children who’ve been detained by the federal government for entering the US illegally waved and cheered from behind a barbed wire fence as attorney María Andrade addressed a crowd of around three hundred marchers Sunday afternoon. She read from a letter her client had given her.

"I am here with my 11 year old daughter. She has lost 15 pounds here," the letter read. "There is no medicine here, they treat us very badly, and the children are suffering."

Andrade and other lawyers say many of the women complain of a lack of medication and healthy food for their kids. They can’t afford bonds when they’re offered, and some sick kids have waited days to see a doctor.

Attorney Christina Brown shows me a folded sheet of notebook paper covered in a child’s handwriting and says lawyers have about 15 letters from women and children who are being held.

"This is from the child of this mother, and she talks about mostly how sick all these kids are, and how they can’t get medicine in there," Brown said, adding that the detainees slipped the letters to the lawyers in secret.

"They are very clandestine trade-offs. People come in and pull papers out of their bras because they don’t want repercussions from ICE. It’s very jailhouse-like, it’s sad that people can’t freely talk to their attorneys here."

There are around 600 Central Americans detained in Artesia, part of a wave of tens of thousands of immigrants who have crossed the border illegally this year. Several hundred have been deported. One 11 year-old boy was released when officials discovered he was an American citizen.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have not allowed KUNM or other news media to talk to the detainees themselves.