Vigil Calling for End to Incarceration of Undocumented Families - KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |

Vigil Calling for End to Incarceration of Undocumented Families After Facility Closure

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

ARTESIA - After the announcement that a federal holding facility in Artesia is set to close by the end of the year, that's pleasant news to city leaders, but local advocates and immigrant families are saying it's still not enough.

Phillip Burch, the Mayor of Artesia, is pleased with the news of an end to the federal holding facility in Artesia, which currently houses over 400 undocumented immigrants.

"We're very happy that they can get back to their real job, and that's training law enforcement folks. As a taxpayer, I'm very happy to see this because as a project, this was a, in my terms, a miserable failure," Burch said.

Burch says contrary to what they were initially told about immigrants being deported rapidly from this facility, just 5% were sent back to their home country.

"Clearly it's not a rapid deportation project, which Secretary Jeh Johnson said. In essence, it's a release program," Burch said.

He says the rest of the immigrants, granted amnesty by a judge, are transported by bus then released into the United States.

"There is very little investigation as to who the immigrants are being released to. There's no assurance that they're being released to a citizen of the United States. They could have been released to join somebody who is also illegal. So it is a very confusing time," Burch said.

Thursday night, advocates from New Mexico gathered for a vigil and peaceful protest to praise the closing of the detention facility, but expressed concerns with moving the immigrant families to be jailed elsewhere.

"Let Them Be Free," "Obama End The Suffering," "Deport Hate," and "Let Them Be Free" were just a few of the signs held by supporters Thursday evening who are trying to put an end to child incarceration, which they say takes a huge toll on families involved.

"We just want to make sure to give a voice and go advocate for the immigrants that are here that live in these inhumane conditions," Hobbs resident and vigil participant, Trish Ruiz, said.

"When I hear about what happens to them, it just breaks my heart to hear it," Vigil participant, Pedro Orozco, said.

"There's many reasons why they come over here. Maybe for a better life, maybe something happened over there. They're just looking for a better life. And for them to put them in jail, to put them away like this, I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's right," Vigil participant, Erick Gutierrez, said.

We spoke with a current employee of the federal holding facility who says she is uncertain of the future of these families, but has certainly built a bond.

"I've been feeding the kids for almost two months and its a good experience. I love those kids. One of the kids, I have a good memory of him because he's always singing to me," Detention facility employee, Hermila Sotelo, said.

The detention facility is set to close by the end of 2014.

Mayor Burch says officials stopped sending immigrants to Artesia last week.

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