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Nonprofits to tour Artesia immigrant detention center

An Artesia immigrant detention center will temporarily open its doors today to nonprofit organizations offering legal aid and other services to the families detained there.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened the detention center last month with capacity for 700 beds in an unused wing of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which trains Border Patrol agents and other federal officers.

ICE has provided tours to politicians, including Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and, most recently, Gov. Susana Martinez. The detained families come from Central America, most of them women and children who arrived in the recent wave of migrants hoping to escape poverty and extreme violence in their home countries.

Representatives of the ACLU of New Mexico and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Las Cruces were among those scheduled to tour the facility, along with organizations from outside the state, including the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center.

Detention centers under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security have a “stakeholders’ process” that includes posting sign-up sheets 48 hours in advance for detainees who wish to visit with one of the nonprofit groups, according to Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU’s Regional Center for Border Rights in Las Cruces, who planned to attend today’s tour.

Gaubeca said she had several questions for the facility’s managers, including “are (detainees) receiving constitutional conditions of treatment? Are they getting good access to medical care and recreation for the children? Are they getting access to legal services?”

It wasn’t clear on Monday whether the nonprofits would have an opportunity to meet with the detained families, she said.

A recent media tour provided a glimpse of a dormitory, but ICE did not permit journalists to see or speak with any of the detained families.