New Mexico could be next state in the nation to end civil immigration detention within its borders. Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced a proposal that would ban local governments in the state from entering into agreements with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. New Mexico currently has three facilities in operation, with all three making headlines throughout the years for repeated violations and abuses against migrants.
“From lack of access to clean drinking water to physical and psychological abuse to the denial of due process, immigrants in New Mexico’s ICE facilities have been deprived of basic human dignity and respect,” Sophia Genovese, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “It’s high time for New Mexico to take these complaints seriously and demand the end of the ICE contracts at Torrance, Cibola, and Otero once and for all.”
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Under the “Dignity Not Detention” proposal, local and state governments would be banned from entering into or renewing contracts “to house or detain individuals for federal civil immigration violations” beginning next year. Three major immigration detention facilities are currently in operation in the state, all of them under private contractors: Management and Training Corporation’s Otero County; Torrance County Detention Facility; and Cibola County Correctional Center, both operated by CoreCivic.
Genovese told Source New Mexico that the proposal, introduced by state Sens. Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Moe Maestas, could have quick effect at Otero if passed into law.
“It could be more difficult to enforce a full shutdown at the other two detention centers in New Mexico,” the report said. “Genovese said the facility in Otero County is the only one where the county owns the land and the building, while the other two in Torrance and Cibola Counties are owned and operated by the private company CoreCivic.”
Border Report said that it’s not yet clear if Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has endorsed the bill. Lujan Grisham, who won reelection this past November and is the state’s first Democratic Latina governor, was a fierce defender of immigrant rights during her time in Congress. Source New Mexico reported that Lujan Grisham was critical of the Torrance facility, a site so terrible the Department of Homeland Security watchdog said it should be emptied. It was nearly empty at one recent point—until officials transferred more than 100 people there just before Christmas.
“I’m appalled at what’s going on in Torrance County, and I need that fixed,” Lujan Grisham said according to Source New Mexico. Both of the state’s U.S. senators, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, have said Torrance’s contract should be terminated.
“I was separated from my dad after he was detained and deported by the Otero County Prison Facility eleven years ago,” said Fernanda Banda, campaigns manager at New Mexico Dream Team. She said that her father recounted officers mistreating detained immigrants, and that conditions were poor. Clearly, not much has changed since. “My father never got the opportunity to see his lawyer, or speak to him,” Banda continued. “It saddens me to see my community continuing to be the victim of horrendous acts and treatment, we need to put an end to this right away.”
The bill could lead to Otero’s closure, and a possible pathway to Torrance and Cibola’s closure. Source New Mexico reported that the state tried a similar measure a couple years ago but failed. “Maestas said they’ve learned a lot” since then, the report said.
“We’re hoping to have a great conversation,” he said in the report. “We think it’s reasonable and phased in. But New Mexico should not participate in mass incarceration that ICE is doing these days.” Other states have enacted broad measures that have shut down this type of detention. Back in 2019, Illinois became the first in the nation to ban private immigration detention facilities, and later passed further legislation effectively banning immigration detention in the state. California has also passed law banning private, for-profit prisons, but it has suffered setbacks following a lawsuit by private prison profiteer GEO Group.
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