When the state Department of Health reported a two-day spike in COVID-19 at Cibola County Correctional Center late last month, activists and lawyers who work with detained migrants didn’t know how many had tested positive. The Milan facility, run by a private company called CoreCivic, also houses federal prisoners under U.S. Marshals Service, as well as county prisoners. “We have one of the largest immigration detention systems in the world,” said Rebekah Entralgo, media advocacy specialist for the California organization Freedom for Immigrants which works with detainees. And she said by phone that the private companies that run detention centers “thrive off secrecy.”
Allegra Love, executive director of Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which provides free legal services to immigrants, said her impression is that the migrant population at the Cibola facility is “low.”
“That information is almost impossible to get and CoreCivic isn’t compelled to tell us daily count numbers,” Love said. New Mexico’s congressional delegation sent a letter to CoreCivic last week because of the recent spike in COVID-19 at the multi-use detention center.
Jeff Taborda lives in a faded green trailer in an old, but neatly kept mobile home community in north Las Cruces. Taborda, 23, graduated in December from New Mexico State University with a degree in criminal justice, with ambitions to go into law enforcement and eventually join the FBI. He is lean and muscular, working out regularly with his younger brother, Steven. The home Taborda shares with his girlfriend is sparsely furnished, clean dishes in a rack in the sink. “As soon as I eat, I do the dishes,” he told visitors on a recent 100-degree afternoon.
According to immigration rights advocates, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed they conducted immigration actions in New Mexico. Fernando Garcia, the executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told NM Political Report his group was able to confirm that some sort of immigration activity took place in Chaparral and Las Cruces. “We don’t know the extent of the activity,” he said in a brief interview. He said it wasn’t clear if this was only targeted actions at certain individuals, or if they were wider raids, as have been reported in other states. In an email, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa declined to confirm the operation to NM Political Report, saying they “will not confirm an operation prior to its completion, nor will ICE speculate on future operational activities.”
NM Political Report had asked Zamarripa to confirm actions in Las Cruces and also for information about any other recent enforcement in New Mexico.