Venezuelan Refugees in New Mexico Detention Center Fear Deportation

Venezuelan refugees in a New Mexico detention facility face deportation and inhumane conditions, despite advocates' efforts to end the facility's ICE contract due to abuse allegations and a migrant's suicide.

Nimrah Khatoon
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Venezuelan Refugees in New Mexico Detention Center Fear Deportation

Venezuelan Refugees in New Mexico Detention Center Fear Deportation

Venezuelan refugees detained at the Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico are living in fear of deportation, facing the prospect of returning to the very nightmares they fled from in their home country. The Torrance County Commission recently voted unanimously to extend the contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to continue incarcerating asylum seekers at the privately operated facility, despite objections from advocates who allege inhumane conditions and due process violations.

One Venezuelan man, who said he fled kidnapping and torture in his home country, has been held in federal immigration custody at the Torrance facility for nearly six months. He now watches as other Venezuelan asylum seekers are being deported, not to their home country, but to places in Mexico. The conditions inside the detention facility have been described as abysmal, with allegations of abuse by guards.

The contract between Torrance County and ICE is set to expire on May 14, 2024, and the county commission is facing pressure to end the agreement due to the poor conditions and treatment of the detainees. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) uncovered documents showing that a 23-year-old Brazilian migrant who died by suicide in August 2022 did not receive adequate mental health care prior to his death. The ACLU urged federal authorities to reconsider the contract with the Torrance County facility based on the "mortality review" by ICE's health services corps.

Why this matters: The plight of Venezuelan refugees detained in New Mexico highlights the ongoing challenges and human rights concerns surrounding U.S. immigration policies and detention practices. The alleged inhumane conditions and lack of due process at the Torrance County Detention Facility raise questions about the treatment of asylum seekers and the accountability of private detention centers contracted by ICE.

County Commissioner Sam Schropp dismissed the accounts of desperation among migrants as "hearsay" and stated that closing the facility would not change the situation, as the detainees would be moved to another facility. However, advocates, including the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center and the ACLU, argue that the facility has a "punitive and dehumanizing culture" and its practices are "harmful and contribute to the emotional suffering and deteriorating mental health of persons in their custody."

Researchers from Colorado College have documented abuses at immigration detention centers in New Mexico, further underscoring the concerns raised by advocates. As the contract expiration date approaches, the fate of the Venezuelan refugees and other asylum seekers at the Torrance County Detention Facility remains uncertain, with the fear of deportation looming over them.

Key Takeaways

  • Venezuelan refugees detained in NM fear deportation to home country
  • Torrance County extends contract with ICE to continue detaining asylum seekers
  • Allegations of abuse, poor conditions, and lack of due process at detention facility
  • ACLU found inadequate mental health care leading to a detainee's suicide
  • Fate of detainees uncertain as contract expiration date approaches