February 10, 2023

Bill preventing ICE contracts at prisons passes first committee

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee passed a bill Wednesday that, if enacted, would prevent law enforcement from detaining individuals for federal civil immigration violations.

SB 172 would prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with privately-owned prisons such as those in Torrance, Cibola and Otero Counties, bill co-sponsor Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said.

According to bill sponsors, the bill’s purpose is to help alleviate some of the issues plaguing current immigration policies.

The bill passed on a 5-2 vote.

“I… want to just point out this is not a private prison ban. This only prevents ICE contracts. This does not close down the facilities. This does not impact jobs,” expert witness Sophia Genovese of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center said.

Maestas and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, sponsored the bill

More from Source NM:Governments within NM would no longer enter detention contracts with ICE under proposed legislation

There may be an issue with existing federal law, according to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office cites the Immigration and Nationality Act “which authorizes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enter into written agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies,” according to the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report.

NMAG states in the report that the bill may implicate the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.

Most public commenters supported the bill. One of the people who spoke against it was Otero County Attorney R.B. Nichols who spoke on behalf of the Otero County Commission.

“(SB 172) would negatively impact the county first, a bond was issued in order to build the Otero county processing center in 2007, Nichols said. “That processing center was built specifically for the purposes of ICE, migrant detention $34 million is still outstanding on that bond. If this bill were to pass, those investors would be out of luck and lose their money on their investment.  Further, it would damage the credit of Otero County, and harm Otero County’s options for future bonds or loans.”