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.
After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”
Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.
The state will no longer have a so-called “gag rule” in place against teachers, stopping them from criticizing controversial standardized tests that many teachers dislike. The move comes just weeks after PED found itself facing a lawsuit over the existence of the rule. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico called the rule “unconstitutional” and filed a lawsuit on behalf of six public school teachers and one parent of a public school student. The Associated Press first reported the upcoming change in policy by the Public Education Department. The rule, in place for years, said public school employees could not “disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of standardized tests.” Consequences of the rule included “suspension or revocation of a person’s educator or administrator licensure or other PED license.”
In the past, PED officials said no one had ever been punished under the rule.