NOVEMBER 20, 2014


ARTESIA, NM—While President Obama was announcing his plan to extend administrative relief to 5 million undocumented immigrants, over 80 immigrant activists, immigration attorneys, teachers, and faith leaders participated in a candlelight vigil outside the Artesia family detention center to call on the President and Congressional leaders to stop jailing immigrant children and families.


Part of a multi-state effort to call attention to the adverse effects that family detention has on children and families, the vigil follows a major announcement by the federal government that it will close the makeshift detention center in Artesia by year's end and transfer the 450 mothers and children who are jailed there to a larger for-profit facility in Dilley, TX.


“While we are glad New Mexico will soon be rid of this shameful practice of family detention, this is simply a lateral move,” said Vicki Gaubeca director of ACLU-MNM Regional Center for Border Rights. “Jailing innocent mothers and children is wrong whether we do it New Mexico or Texas.  Our policy of putting babies and toddlers behind barbed wire should shock the conscience of every American who believes in family, fairness, and basic human decency.


Family incarceration is the alarming practice of detaining immigrants, including babies and children, with their parents in prisons. According to a recent report by the Detention Watch Network, family detention has increased over 1200% in the last five months. Studies have shown that incarceration harms the health and well-being of children who require specialized medical, educational and legal support.


Somos Un Pueblo Unido, ACLU-NM, the American Immigration Law Association (AILA) and other co-sponsors of the vigil support the closing of Artesia's detention center and Obama’s executive action on administrative relief, but oppose the continued incarceration of children and their mothers who should be released to family members already living in the US.


Vanessa Tarango, an immigrant mother of two and longtime resident of Roswell, said: “The government created a child jail in our back yard, and it’s shameful. We have been fighting for many years to stop the incarceration and deportation of children and families in our communities, and we will keep fighting for these families who have recently arrived. We demand our congressional delegation put pressure on President Obama to end the policy of family detention. Children never belong in jail.  This is not over.  Our movement’s commitment to end family detention is real.”


Christina Brown, an AILA attorney doing pro-bono work with the migrants and refugees in Artesia, said at the vigil: "Artesia is being closed due to the outgoing criticism and pressure from AILA and civil rights organizations, but the administration still has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with legitimate refugees, it's not acceptable to jail them and we're seeking the reversal of the policy on family detention. "


The actions to shut down Artesia and end family detention follow first-hand accounts by attorneys and human rights advocates at the Artesia center and the  Karnes, TX family detention center that reveal substandard conditions for women and children, inadequate and unsustainable legal services for those who may qualify for lawful status, lack of educational, medical and mental health services for incarcerated families, exorbitant bonds, and due process violations.


“America has always been seen as the land of opportunity and safety for immigrants,” said Rosemary Carrasco, the President of Carlsbad-NEA. “Those that are coming to seek asylum and safety should not be treated like criminals.  When they arrive, they should be afforded an education that will help them and give them hope for a better future while we unravel problems with immigration.




Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide civil and worker's rights organization with membership teams in ten counties and offices in Roswell and Santa Fe. This vigil is one of several actions across the globe on November 20th to oppose family detention and child incarceration.


1804 Espinacitas St.

Santa Fe, NM 87505

Telephone: 505-424-7832




1717 W. 2nd St. Ste. 203

Roswell, NM 88201

Telephone: 575-622-4486