Immigration Controversy: New Mexico Detention Center to be Replaced

By Staff Reporter | Nov 19, 2014 02:40 PM EST

While the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said Tuesday that they will be closing the controversial Artesia, New Mexico detention center for illegal immigrant mothers and their children at the end of the month, the agency said they plan to open and expand other major detention centers for undocumented migrants, reported AFP.

And despite pressure the White House has been under from Congress and human rights groups to slow family detention growth, some of the detainees from the New Mexico center will be sent to the new, 2,400-bed facility in Dilley, Texas.

"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," Thomas Winkowski, acting director of ICE, said, according to AFP.

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"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."

Others, like California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who is one of 32 House Democrats petitioning the Obama administration to address detention facility problems, had more serious concerns of the news.

"While closing the Artesia facility is a step in the right direction, the fact remains that shifting women and little children from one detention center to another does little to mitigate the serious concerns regarding family detention that members of Congress, including myself, have voiced to the Administration but have yet to receive a response," Lofgren said, according to The Hill.

"The addition of a 2,400 bed facility represents an enormous and troubling expansion of family detention, and it is critically important in the months to follow that we monitor closely whether detainees in the Dilley facility have sufficient access to legal counsel and other necessary resources."

The inhumane conditions at detention centers, which hold women and children who are seeking asylum in the U.S., have been a hot topic of debate for activists who claimed that such conditions could traumatize families seeking to escape such conditions in their home countries.

Further, advocates and lawmakers claim that women in detention centers lack proper access to lawyers who could assist with their immigration cases, reported The Hill.

"It's truly offensive that the United States is institutionalizing the practice of family detention. The government has failed to show that detaining families is compatible with ensuring due process rights are protected," Ben Johnson of the American Immigration Council told AFP.

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