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AILA: Artesia Detention Center a Due Process Failure

Thursday, July 24, 2014

George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

Washington, DC - On Tuesday, representatives from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) along with other immigration advocacy organizations visited the Artesia detention facility in New Mexico housing 626 Central American women and children. AILA observed such severe due process violations at the facility that AILA is now calling for the suspension of all deportations from there until fundamental improvements can be made.

"The lives of children and families are at risk. I was shocked to hear of immigrant families -- including mothers with young children, some still nursing, being sent right back into the danger from which they fled with no meaningful chance to contact a lawyer," said Karen Lucas, AILA Legislative Associate, who was on the site visit. "A woman who speaks no English and has no knowledge of the American legal system can't possibly make a successful asylum claim with no lawyer and no time even to get her bearings. This is truly heartbreaking and a travesty of justice that families are in effect being denied access to asylum and other protection."

Access to counsel at Artesia consists of little more than DHS handing out a single slip of paper with three names, as if these few service providers can represent hundreds of people. No thought has been given to how to provide access to counsel, even though planeloads of people already have been removed. Hundreds of AILA members stand ready to provide pro bono legal assistance. However, there is no effective way as of yet to match them with those who want representation but don't know how or where to ask.

"Women are being asked to share intimate details about past persecution and violence right in front of their children because DHS has not created a safe and separate interview space," said Lucas. "Years ago DHS learned a hard lesson that detention of families is unacceptable. It was sued for bad conditions and abuses at a Texas facility that ultimately was forced to shut down. It should not be going down this path again, and absolutely should not escalate family detention to the level of 6350 more beds that the president is requesting of Congress."

"This has to stop," said Crystal Williams, AILA's Executive Director. "We recognize that the government stood up this facility quickly, but it cannot deport people from it until due process has been provided. And Artesia is just not prepared for that. AILA calls upon the Administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to suspend these unconscionable and blanket deportation practices until they can ensure a fair and safe process."

More than 57,000 unaccompanied children and tens of thousands more Central Americans traveling as families have crossed the border since October with most fleeing from conditions of extreme violence and poverty. The Artesia Center was opened in barracks of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. It now holds about 400 people but eventually will hold about 700 women and children.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 14072449.