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New Mexico bill to ban migrant detention contracts

SANTA FE, New Mexico (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday to prevent local governments and state agencies from entering into civil immigration detention contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and private detention facilities.

The bill could remove contractual agreements that help hold immigrants in three private detention centers in New Mexico, located near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The proposal was supported by Democratic Senators Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Mo Maestas, both from Albuquerque, backed by advocacy groups that criticize US policies and practices regarding migrant detention.

The bill is reminiscent of recent legislation in New Jersey, Virginia, and Illinois to end civil immigration detention at local facilities.

It was unclear whether New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supported the newly filed legislation.

Supporters of the proposed legislation include the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, the Innovation Law Lab, and the New Mexico Dream Team.

California’s 2019 ban on private immigration detention centers was defeated last year by a federal appeals court, which cited an interference with the federal government’s powers to enforce immigration law.

Torrance County Detention Center is shown Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Estancia, New Mexico. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

In New Mexico, private companies operate the Torrance County Detention Center in Estancia, the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, and the Otero County Data Center in Chaparral under service agreements with county governments and ICE.

Torrance County Detention Center, privately run by CoreCivic, was at the center of a scathing inspection report following an unannounced visit in early 2022 by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General who found unsafe and unsanitary conditions and recommended relocation of detained migrants.

The findings have been disputed by CoreCivic and ICE. A follow-up review by the inspector general showed compliance with 10 of his 14 recommendations.

US Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan last year called on the federal government to terminate the contract in Torrance County with CoreCivic.

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