As President Barack Obama was announcing his plans on immigration last Thursday night, Christina Brown, a lawyer representing immigrant women and children currently being held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, found out that some of her clients would be transferred to a similar facility in Texas the next day.
Due to an agreement that was reached between Brown’s group, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AIMA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that transfer was delayed through the weekend.
Artesia Center Set To Close Next Month
The abrupt notice of the pending shift of the immigrants came just one day after it was announced that the Artesia facility would be closed by the end of the year by the federal government.
Despite the temporary pact that was reached, 24 of Brown’s clients are still scheduled to be moved. Next month, a new South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas that will initially house 480 detainees is expected to open. Eventually, that number will reach 2,400 individuals for what will be the Department of Homeland Security’s fourth-such facility to increase capacity.
Asylum Immigration Lead Lawyer
Brown has served in Artesia as the project leader for AIMA’S pro bono effort since July 28, with the group having already won nine cases of asylum for their clients. She had previously said that she was twice denied an opportunity tour the center after hearing reports regarding food and health treatment issues.
The concerns voiced by Brown about this most recent action primarily concerned the effect the shift could have with respect to either a delay or interference with pending asylum cases, with some in the final stages of hearings.
The Denver-based attorney has provided legal representation during immigration court hearings held via video conference. Prior to last month, the immigration court in Arlington, Virginia handled those duties, but that was changed to Denver to allow both the court and immigrants to be in the same time zone.
Drop In Deportations
Deportations from the Artesia facility were averaging about 100 per month between July and September, but less than 20 were deported last month.
Contentious Debate Over Artesia Center
The Artesia center was set up in June to hold 700 women and children from Central American countries who had crossed the border without any documentation. Since opening, it has sparked heated debate on both sides of the immigration issue. Those supporting the immigrants want an approach geared toward asylum for qualified individuals, while those against the influx want deportations as quickly as possible.
ICE has stated that the screening of detainees was being done on a case-by-case basis.