ALBUQUERQUE, NM — In recent weeks, the ACLU of New Mexico, the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (NMILC), and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project (SFDP) sent a series of letters to New Mexico’s federal, state, and county leaders imploring action amid the emerging public health crisis in New Mexico’s three immigration detention centers. The letters addressed the Governor, members of the federal Congressional delegation, county managers, and facility wardens requested that they publicly release site-specific plans to mitigate the fast-moving threat that COVID-19 poses to people detained in New Mexico immigration detention facilities.
To date, the response from our state’s leaders has been inadequate:
- The governor’s office acknowledged the dire risk but simply stated that they had no control over immigration detention centers;
- Some letter recipients, including the private prison-affiliated wardens for Torrance and Cibola county facilities, passed the responsibility to other entities, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or private prison corporation CoreCivic;
- After 26 days, Otero County Processing Center responded to the request with only a few preliminary measures;
- Other letter recipients did not respond at all.
These inadequate responses demonstrate a dangerous disregard for the threat COVID-19 poses to people detained in these centers, the staff that operate these facilities, and the New Mexican communities in the surrounding area. Continued inaction in the face of this public health threat will have grave consequences for the New Mexican public and our healthcare system at large.
ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson, issued the following statement:
“We call on our Governor, our state and federal representatives, and public health officials to publicly share their plan for managing a COVID-19 outbreak in our state's three detention centers. The New Mexican public deserves to feel confident that our government will manage outbreaks in these spaces with transparency and full adherence to CDC guidelines. This is critical, not only for the health and safety of detained individuals, but also for all the people in the broader community who are making enormous sacrifices to support the safety of everyone in our state.”
Adriel D. Orozco, Executive Director from NMILC, issued the following statement:
"We are grateful for the leadership of our state and local leaders who have acted swiftly and decisively to slow the spread of COVID-19 to mitigate an impending increased demand for medical services in New Mexico. We ask that they take equally decisive action to stop a potential ticking time bomb that are the immigrant detention centers in our state. Throughout the country, we have seen COVID-19 already spread within immigrant detention facilities and we know that the facilities in New Mexico have long histories of not providing adequate safeguards to protect the populations detained there. County managers in Torrance, Cibola, and Otero have the authority to end their contracts with private companies like CoreCivic and MTC if they are failing to provide appropriate protections. And our Congressional representatives and senators need to pressure ICE to release all civil immigrant detainees to prevent a catastrophe for our communities."
Allegra Love, Executive Director from SFDP, issued the following statement:
“For the last several weeks we have watched leaders in our State make enormously difficult decisions, literally pushing our economy and educational systems to the brink, in the name of protecting our lives, our public health, and the medical resources on our front line as we confront COVID-19. Immigration has always been a politically divisive issue but now is time for our leaders to stand up and help our public understand that whatever divides us politically is not as important as the lives of New Mexicans and that ICE detention poses an enormous threat to our State. We need to come together as a public, with the guidance of our elected representatives, and stand up to ICE and the corporations that detain people in New Mexico before it is too late.”