Legislators hold hearing, hear public comments on private prisons that hold immigrants

An interim committee hearing included harsh criticisms and personal stories of detention at private facilities which have contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee held a hearing Monday afternoon concerning two privately-operated prisons in New Mexico that detain immigrants. These include Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, which is run by CoreCivic, and the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, which is run by Management and Training Corporation. Legislators heard from an immigration attorney, advocates for immigrants and some in the country without authorization. The committee invited Ronald D. Vitello, the acting director of ICE, but he did not attend or even acknowledge the invitation.

‘I felt like I was dying’: In handwritten letters, detained immigrant fathers describe family separation

In letters scrawled by hand, five immigrant fathers detained in New Mexico describe being separated from their children at the border and the uncertainty of when — or whether — they will be reunited. The men describe their anguish at being taken from their children and not knowing their children’s whereabouts for weeks or months. “I felt like I was dying,” wrote one father, who did not give his name or country of origin. The Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee heard their stories at a hearing July 16 on privately run immigrant prisons in the state. About 70 fathers who were separated from their children are currently being held at Cibola County Correctional Center, according to Allegra Love, director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a legal advocacy organization.

“A black hole of due process” in New Mexico

In December 2016, a 24-year-old small business owner, who asked to be identified as “Boris,” joined a protest in his native Cameroon. The country’s English-speaking minority of nearly 5 million people had begun coalescing into a movement for equal rights, “to tell the government our griefs, to make them understand that we have pain in our hearts,” Boris, who was recently granted asylum after five months inside Cibola County’s immigrant detention center, tells New Mexico In Depth. Teachers and lawyers led the first wave of dissent that October. The educators fought for their students to learn in English. The attorneys argued their clients should stand before judges who spoke their own language.

Inside a private prison’s $150M deal to detain immigrants in New Mexico

Just shy of his third year in the United States, 24-year-old oil pipeline worker Diego Navarro said goodbye to his California friends. It was early April, and the Oklahoma resident was anxious to return home, having used a break in his work schedule to make the trip west. Navarro, who entered the U.S. without documentation in 2014, typically worked 10- to 14-hour days as part of the country’s petroleum processing machine. But at a stop for gas during the drive back with a friend, Navarro was swept up in the billion-dollar business of private immigrant detention instead. This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

ICE transfers transgender detainees to New Mexico

A group of transgender women detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were recently transferred to New Mexico from a detention center in California. In a detention center in Milan, the women are housed in a pod together. ICE transferred the dozen or so women in early May to Cibola County Detention Center in Milan from a similar facility in Santa Ana, California, where ICE made its first dedicated transgender module. Since then, advocacy organizations for immigrants and transgender rights in New Mexico have taken notice. Adrian Lawyer, co-director of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, said his organization reached out to the detainees and recently toured the Cibola County facility.