Associated Press – The mayor of a New Mexico city where immigration authorities are holding nearly 500 detainees says dozens of immigrants have been released.
Artesia Mayor Phillip Burch told the Associated Press that 68 detainees at the Artesia Family Residential Center were released and around 14 were deported last week. He says federal immigration officials reported around 479 detainees remain at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia and more are expected to arrive in the coming days.
Burch says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials briefed Artesia officials on the latest numbers during a weekly meeting.
ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa says 324 detainees have been deported to Central America since the center opened three months ago.
The Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review says it told the AP a "special request" taking 10 to 15 days was required for information on immigration judges' latest decisions.
The immigration detention center at Artesia, an isolated New Mexico desert town, has come under fire from outside and from within recently.
Billed as a temporary place to house women and children from Central America who were among a wave of immigrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally earlier this year, the facility could remain open until next summer, it was revealed earlier this month.
"All of us would love us to see the doors close in Artesia but the reality is the need will probably be there and probably until the end of the high season, probably August next year," a government official told immigration advocates in a confidential meeting, a recording of which the AP was given access to.
The detainees, meanwhile, have been growing increasingly frustrated that they are being held with no end in sight while earlier border-crossers were released with orders to contact immigration officials later.
"I'm being punished for coming here, they tell us," said Geraldyn Perez. She said she fled death threats by gangs in Guatemala.
The center opened as federal officials were realizing over the summer that the thousands of border-crossers they released had disappeared into the nation's interior and never showed up for any meetings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The government official in the recorded confidential meeting acknowledged that about 70 percent of the released families vanished.