A new detention center opened in Artesia, New Mexico in response to the recent increase in the numbers of families and unaccompanied minor immigrants coming to the United States from Central America. However, being located hundreds of miles from any cities, and without facilities to provide for legal access for the detainees, hundreds of the immigrants were being deported in expedited removal proceedings. After filing a federal lawsuit, teams of lawyers are now getting access to advocate on behalf of the immigrant families and children.
Advocates and immigration lawyers were alarmed by the speed with which these people were being deported, arguing that they had not been given due process to present their case and argue for the ability to remain in the country.
A senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official, Phil Millier, stated that because they were recent border crossers, “we feel that detention is the most efficient way we can prosecute these cases, and if they are ordered removed, expedite that removal.”
After legal advocates filed a lawsuit alleging officials were denying the immigrants due process, prejudging their case for asylum, officials have made changes to allow better access for lawyers. A room was set aside for interviews, phones and computers are now allowed in the center, and phone lines have been set up with free calls available to legal organizations. Lawyers have indicated that the changes have improved access to the many families and children held in the remote New Mexico detention center.
Improved legal access will likely have an impact on the deportation rates of individuals in the detention centers. One newspaper editorial reports that because U.S. immigration law is so complex, immigrants need access to legal representation to have a fighting chance to remain in the U.S. Since 2005, 47 percent of minors with lawyers have been allowed to remain in the country, versus only 10 percent of those successful without an attorney.
Others are fighting for health of children housed in these detention centers, arguing that the living conditions are substandard, and it is illegal for the state to detain children in such an environment. Children are reported as being sicked with fever and diarrhea, and not able to receive proper medicine or medical treatment. ICE has responded that the government does have a professional medical staff and selection of medications at the detention center.
The terrible conditions reported at some detention centers does not appear to be uniquely an American problem. In a recent story in Great Britain, an immigrant from Bangladesh was found dead in a detention center after an official report that he took his own life. However others at the center reported his pleas for medical assistance for complaints of chest pain went unanswered by officials at the detention centers. One Australian detention center has been described by a guard as so filthy, that he was not surprised that an immigrant with a cut foot eventually died from an infection.
Of course, the U.S. also has a history of mistreatment and even deaths in immigration detention centers. In 2007, an immigrant from Ecuador died of testicular cancer after two months in an immigration jail in Eloy, Arizona, run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. The death had not even been reported by ICE in their official death roster provided to Congress.
If you have questions regarding any immigration matters and are seeking legal counsel, please contact my office to set up an initial consultation.