NM may become among first states to seek oversight on immigration detention centers

After spending five months locked up inside two different Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons in New Mexico, Manuel Gonzalez will soon be among the first ICE detainees in the country to have state legislators formally learn about his experience. On July 16, members of the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice committee will have the chance to hear from former detainees like Gonzalez, as well as immigrant communities and their advocates. The committee hearing at the Roundhouse, which will include an hour for public comment,  is intended to educate lawmakers, some of whom hope to start a conversation about whether to exert more state oversight on private prisons in New Mexico that incarcerate immigrants. A 51-year-old father of six, Gonzalez has lived in the United States for 38 years — decades he’s spent working in New Mexico’s oil and construction industries. As for what compelled plainclothes ICE agents to show up at his home in Roswell and arrest him in June 2017, Gonzalez says he still has no idea.

“A black hole of due process” in New Mexico

In December 2016, a 24-year-old small business owner, who asked to be identified as “Boris,” joined a protest in his native Cameroon. The country’s English-speaking minority of nearly 5 million people had begun coalescing into a movement for equal rights, “to tell the government our griefs, to make them understand that we have pain in our hearts,” Boris, who was recently granted asylum after five months inside Cibola County’s immigrant detention center, tells New Mexico In Depth. Teachers and lawyers led the first wave of dissent that October. The educators fought for their students to learn in English. The attorneys argued their clients should stand before judges who spoke their own language.