ICE to close New Mexico immigration center

The Artesia, New Mexico, immigrant detainee facility has been the subject of great controversy since it opened in summer 2014. Here, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained hundreds of children and women prior to deportation, bringing to light the flawed U.S. immigration system and spurring protests from immigration reform activists across the country. Now, ICE has announced its plans to close the temporary shelter.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the agency confirmed on Nov. 18 that the family detention center in Artesia will close by the end of December. This center housed 231 children and 188 adults in addition to the U.S. Border Patrol trainees living in the dormitories of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Campus. Most of the detainees came from the Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in an attempt to escape gang violence and poverty. As acting ICE director Thomas Winkowski explained in a statement, the closing comes after a drop in the number of immigrants crossing the southwest border.

“ICE opened the temporary facility in Artesia in June as a critical piece of the government’s response to the unprecedented influx of adults with children at the southwest border,” Winkowski said. “Since then, the numbers of illegal migrants crossing into south Texas has gone down considerably.”

What will happen to the detainees?
Any detainees still remaining in the facility – those who have not been deported yet – will be moved to two other family immigration detention centers located in Texas. One of these facilities will be a new detention center planned for the small city of Dilley, just outside of San Antonio. As Winkowski said during his statement, this center will be less isolated than the Artesia location, allowing detainees easier access to immigration attorneys who can help them obtain U.S. citizenship.

“With the opening of the Dilley facility, ICE will have the initial capacity to house up to 480 residents, but the ultimate capacity to house up to 2,400 individuals,” Winkowski stated. “These facilities help ensure timely and effective removals that comply with our legal and international obligations, while deterring others from taking the dangerous journey and illegally crossing into the United States.”

With this new detention center, ICE hopes to be better prepared for seasonal escalations in the number of immigrants who cross the border.