New bill would ban migrant detention contracts in NM

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a new proposal to ban migrant detention contracts in New Mexico. There are only three facilities in the state that currently have contracts to house migrants detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and all of them are facing serious allegations of mistreatment.

We’ve been following the troubling allegations at two of the facilities for months now, and while the new proposal wouldn’t automatically cancel those contracts, immigrant rights attorneys believe it could send an important message.

“It’s time for New Mexico state to say ‘we are not going to allow this to happen in our jurisdiction,’” said  Sophia Genovese, a senior attorney with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center.

Genovese is familiar with the alleged mistreatment of migrants housed inside private detention facilities like the one in Torrance County.

“I was just there yesterday, and people were complaining about inhumane treatment, lack of due process, lack of humane treatment from those working with them inside the facility,” said Genovese.  

Conditions are so bad, at least three migrant men housed at the facility – and a similar site near Grants – have attempted suicide. Dozens more took part in hunger strikes to protest conditions.

Even Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury raised concerns after visiting the Torrance County Facility last March.

“I think New Mexicans would be shocked to know what is happening, literally in our backyards,” said Stansbury in March.  

Albuquerque senators Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Moe Maestas are joining the fight with Senate Bill 172. The proposal would block local New Mexico governments from entering into new migrant detention contracts, and force them to opt out of existing ones.

“An immediate effect would be the termination of the ICE contract at the Otero County Processing Center,” said Genovese.  

It’s a different story for the Torrance and Cibola County facilities. CoreCivic owns both locations and contracts with ICE directly.

Genovese says New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation would have to step in to end those contracts.

“This has been a several years long fight, and we hope to get one step closer to ending detention in our state,” Genovese said.  

SB 172 was filed earlier this week and already has a committee assignment, but it’s not clear when state lawmakers will discuss it.

Track SB 172 during the legislative session.