NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Local immigrant rights groups and lawmakers are pushing to end detaining migrants in New Mexico detention centers. They claim the conditions inside are inhumane, unsafe, and unsanitary.

Fernanda and Itzayana Banda’s father was taken to the Otero County Processing Center for eight months in 2011 for being in the United States illegally. They added he described to them horrible conditions, including crowding and being forced to sleep on the floor.

“There’s so many documented stories on paper that talk about these conditions and just how unfairly and poor they are,” said Fernanda Banda.

“I feel like after my dad was detained and deported, my whole family separated,” said Itzayana Banda.

It sparked the sisters to push for change. They’re part of the non-profit, the New Mexico Dream Team, which fights for the rights of undocumented citizens. They teamed up with two Albuquerque lawmakers to create Senate Bill 172.

“It would prevent the state of New Mexico or any city or county from contracting with ICE to house immigrants on civil infractions. Essentially, the contracts would play out, and they could not be renewed,” said Albuquerque Sen., Antonio Maestas.

Three detention centers in New Mexico house migrants in Cibola, Otero, and Torrance County. The bill would only affect Otero and Cibola County because the two counties contract directly with ICE.

The ICE website states once a non-citizen is transferred to their custody, they determine if the person is a public safety or flight risk. They then use discretion to release or detain immigrants. According to their 2022 annual report, they arrested more than 46,000 non-citizens with criminal histories. In 2022, there were more than 22,000 people in ICE detention centers across the nation.

Maestas mentioned, “There is a huge concern with regards to human rights violations and things of that nature. We have no oversight. The federal government has oversight. We, as county officials, have no oversight. The local officials have very little oversight.”

Sen. Maestas said if the centers closed in New Mexico, immigrants would go to other facilities across the country.

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“Hopefully, this bill will raise awareness, put a little pressure on the federal officials to do a better job,” said Sen. Maestas.

Maestas said one of the issues they may run into is the counties that rely on revenue from the facilities. He said the hope would be to find a better economic infrastructure for those areas.