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.
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.
Last year, State Sen. Cisco McSorley worked to get a hemp bill through the committee process in each chamber. The legislation passed in a very different form from the beginning of the session after advice from legislators, Department of Agriculture staff and stakeholders. Then Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it, saying there were inconsistencies between it and federal law. The Albuquerque Democrat is coming back with the legislation for a second year, with a quick stop in front of the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice committee on Wednesday as the beginning of the effort. The committee endorsed the legislation, though it’s unclear if Martinez will put the legislation on the call and allow discussion in the short session.
Legislators wrestled Wednesday afternoon with the idea of adding cops and law enforcement to the list of protected classes under state hate crime laws. State House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, is carrying the bill as part of a “tough on crime” package endorsed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and the House Republican leadership. One GOP lawmaker expressed his skepticism of the idea in a hearing of Gentry’s bill at the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee. “I believe we’ve got laws already on the books that should take care of this,” state Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, told Gentry at the hearing. “A lot of these things go on the judge’s discretion anyway.”
The committee didn’t vote on whether to endorse the bill or not.