More immigrant families freed than deported, says Artesia mayor

Detention CenterOne of three detention centers used to house undocumented immigrant families from Central America that illegally crossed the US border earlier in the year has begun releasing more of its inmates than it deports, according to a city official of New Mexico.

Phillip Birch, the mayor of Artesia, says that federal immigration authorities have reported no deportations and 61 releases from the Artesia Family Residential Center, in the south-east of New Mexico, over the course of the last week. This marks the second consecutive week during which Artesia officials have been informed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that there have been more releases of detainees than deportations and is a dramatic change from the numbers reported in the first couple of weeks that the center was operating, when 135 people were deported and just 12 released.

The center opened nearly four months ago, in late June, and is among three such facilities in the United States that detain immigrant families ‒ mainly mothers and children from Central America ‒ that fled to the US to escape poverty and violence. ICE officials have declined to comment on the reasons for the major shift in numbers and it is unknown whether the same is happening at the other facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh says that among the reasons for the change are immigrant advocates putting pressure on the Obama administration and the immigrants themselves being given better access to legal representation.