The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it will be closing an immigration facility in Artesia, New Mexico. This particular facility is a center that specializes in detention of women and children of undocumented individuals and families. The announcement should be perceived as a positive step on the immigration front for supporters of the rights of undocumented individuals. However, the closure of this facility is actually a step in the opposite direction. A new and larger facility is slated to open in Dilley, Texas that will take over where the facility in Artesia, New Mexico leaves off. The new center promises to increase their capacity to detainee over 2,400 people. That means, mothers and children who arrived in the southern United States by crossing the border from Mexico and were encountered by United States Border Patrol will now be detained in a larger institution while they await the decision of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Homeland Security to pass judgment and deport or remove them from the United States back to their home country.
Most of these families have come to the United States, fleeing their homes in Central America, where they faced abject poverty, starvation, uncontrolled gang violence, rape and drug related crime and violence. For many, this journey to the United States was a last resort of finding a semblance of safety for themselves and their children.
The center in Artesia, New Mexico is strategically located in a remote area, hours from any central population where volunteers or legal counsel are unable to come to the assistance of these women and children. The new center location in Dilley, Texas will face the same obstacles. The women and children, without adequate legal representation, are forced to speak for themselves before United States Immigration Officers, an Immigration Judge and a Federal Prosecutor. Many of these women are intimidated and lack the knowledge required to navigate through a difficult legal process. These mothers are being strong-armed by the federal officials to give up their rights and take an expedited order of removal back to their home country. If they were aware of some of the steps they could take to remain in the country, such as applying for political asylum or asking for humanitarian parole, there would be far fewer immediate deportations.
Immigration Activists are furious with the detention and treatment of these families who are being denied access to proper due process. They allege that the federal government is cutting off the Constitutional and basic human rights of these families by isolating them and denying their access to adequate legal representation. The backlash is being heard further in the form of a lawsuit being filed in federal court against the federal government. Throughout the southwest and in the rest of the country, activists promise to continue their efforts to protect the rights of families being detained for no other crime, than crossing the border into the United States. These groups have vowed to continue to monitor the government’s treatment of these families once they are moved to the facility in Dilley, Texas.