The out-of-control Immigration and Customs Enforcement had detained nearly 200 people in a New Mexico detention facility for months on end without a bond hearing for possible release, BuzzFeed News reports, and resumed scheduling hearings only because attorneys threatened to slap the agency with a lawsuit. “But lawyers are concerned the problem will continue and expand to other areas, leaving immigrants languishing in ICE detention,” the report said.
BuzzFeed News reports the New Mexico facility, the for-profit Otero County Processing Center, was criticized by the Homeland Security inspector general in a 2017 report for violating ICE’s own segregation standards. “One detainee reported being locked down for multiple days for sharing coffee with another detainee,” the inspector general’s report said.
More than a dozen groups last year criticized Otero’s treatment of vulnerable populations, including people with HIV and transgender asylum-seekers. One trans asylum-seeker, Johana Medina Leon, died after being in Otero’s custody last year, having reportedly “pleaded for medical help” for weeks, but was kept jailed even though she had passed her initial asylum interview. The groups said even after Leon’s death, “ICE continues to deny transgender women and gay and bisexual men at Otero basic health care and provides misinformation on how to access hormone therapy.”
In no surprise, BuzzFeed News reports the administration has kept people detained for months partly due to its own actions: “Attorneys and immigration judges said they were told by court administrators the delays were due to bond hearings being deprioritized for other hearings. The other hearings included immigration judge reviews of credible fear interviews for Central Americans and Mexican asylum-seekers put into two new fast-track deportation programs launched by the Trump administration. Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, has said these programs were expected to be implemented across the entire border this month.”
Racist goofball Cuccinelli, you may recall, also has his job in the Trump administration in an acting capacity because he’s so extreme his vote would likely fail, even in this Republican Senate that’s busy helping impeached president Donald Trump become an authoritarian exempt from the checks of that pesky Congress. When he hasn’t been busy helping deport asylum-seekers quicker, Cuccinelli has also been on cable news practically drooling over ICE’s mass raids.
Meanwhile, advocates fear for their clients as the Trump administration feels more emboldened and seeks billions more in its nativist budget proposal to continue enforcing its anti-immigrant agenda, and a budget that House Democrats must reject. Attorney Constance Wannamaker told BuzzFeed News she has two clients jailed at Otero who have been waiting for a bond hearing since November. Before, she said she’d usually hear something within a week. “Don’t they understand this is a due process concern?” she asked. “People are rotting in detention.”