This summer, nearly 2,500 women and children from Central America were sent by Customs and Border Protection to El Paso, Texas, for processing and release to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The faith community created five temporary shelters to assist the refugees fleeing violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Now refugees are being routed to Artesia, N.M., so our shelters have closed. We suspected the worst when we heard that ICE was preparing a facility there to house 600 to 700 family members in deportation proceedings. Lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association pro bono program confirmed our suspicions at a press conference on Friday, describing the current conditions at the facility.
Pamela Muñoz, attorney and board chair for Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, even went so far as to compare it to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in terms of lack of access to legal counsel and violation of due process.
The makeshift family detention center was established in early July to manage the large influx of women with children arriving in south Texas seeking asylum from desperate conditions in Central America. Before, the immigrants were released to family members pending their deportation hearings. Pressure from Congress and the general public to stop that practice resulted in the creation of this facility at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia and another more recently in Karnes City, Texas.