I.C.E. Officials, Local Advocates Address Immigrant Mistreatment Allegations

I.C.E. Officials, Local Advocates Address Immigrant Mistreatment Allegations

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

ARTESIA - On Wednesday, NewsWest 9 told you about an advocate who visited the federal detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, housing illegal immigrants. She claims she heard first-hand about mistreatment. On Thursday, NewsWest 9 spoke with local advocate groups and heard from the federal agency running the center.

No medicine for sick children, deporting pregnant women faster and deporting entire families without them ever visiting a lawyer to seek asylum. Those are reports shared by immigrants housed in Artesia, New Mexico.

"They should be treated as refugees," Cassandra Champion, Veteran's Rights Attorney for Texas Civil Rights Project, said.

The Texas Civil Rights Project got wind of the reports saying the undocumented women and children aren't getting the care needed to prevent sickness.

"The treatment of the people who are being detained there is sub-par, substandard," Champion said.

On Tuesday, an advocate from Young Women United visited the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center where the immigrants are being held. Tannia Esparza says she heard first-hand from a Central American woman, who claimed children who have coughs or diarrhea were not given medicine.

In a statement sent to NewsWest 9, ICE denied those claims. They say, "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes seriously the health, safety and welfare of detainees in our custody.  ICE is committed to ensuring that all ICE detainees receive timely and appropriate medical treatment.  All ICE detainees receive an initial health screening by qualified medical staff soon after they arrive at the residential facility in Artesia. The on-site ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) medical staff have an office in each of the buildings where the children and their mothers or their guardians are housed.  They address any medical concern brought to their attention."

Esparza says she was also told pregnant women are singled out for swift deportation.

"The current immigration process requires that they get a day before the court so they can explain what they've gone through and the court can determine whether or not they need to go back home, whether or not they really are at fear for losing their lives," Champion said.

Esparza also claims she was told some families were deported in the middle of the night.

In a statement, ICE told said it's just not true.

They say, "Adults with children maintain important due process rights, including the ability to seek asylum, appeal to an immigration judge the denial of a credible fear finding and the ability to seek legal representation.  ICE is able to move these proceedings expeditiously because it has prioritized these cases and devoted resources such that asylum officers are on site to conduct credible fear screenings, three immigration judges are dedicated to the facility to prioritize hearings via video teleconferencing and all hearings and screenings are able to be heard and fairly considered on an expedited timetable due to the increase in resources allocated to the Artesia facility."