Immigration detention is a massive barrier to justice

Since immigration litigation is a civil matter, many of the constitutional protections that extend to criminal proceedings do not apply to those held in immigration detention. Most of us are accustomed to the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty, that the prosecution bears the burden of proof, that the court will appoint an attorney of the defendant cannot afford one, and that a person has a right to a speedy trial. While those protections extend to criminal matters, they do not apply to civil immigration matters.

The right to a court-appointed attorney or the guarantee of a speedy trial, do not apply to those held in immigration detention. Moreover, unlike criminal proceedings where the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, in immigration proceedings the migrant respondent bears the burden of proof. They must prove their innocence or that they qualify for some form of deportation relief. Detaining migrants, particularly in remote ICE facilities, like those in New Mexico, makes it especially difficult for detained individuals to secure legal counsel.1 Migrants bear the burden of proof, are not afforded a court appointed attorney, are not guaranteed a speedy trial, and when they are confined it is extremely difficult for them to acquire an attorney.

In addition to being very expensive for making calls, the phone services in many immigration detention facilities do not permit the outbound caller to leave a message. Imagine being locked up, earning a dollar a day, having to use an expensive phone, there are few lawyers around, and you can’t leave a message. Given that effective, cheaper, and more humane methods of ensuring that migrant respondents appear at their immigration hearings exist it is time to limit expansion of immigration detention in our state and begin immediate independent unannounced inspections of ICE facilities in New Mexico through the passages of HB624.

Please sign on in support of HB624 the Rubio-Maestas Immigration Detention Facilities Act.

  1. NIJC, “What Kind of Miracle…The Systematic Violation of Immigrants’ Right to Counsel at the Cibola County Correctional Center” (Washington D. C.: National Immigrant Justice Center, 2017),; Emily P. Carey, “Outsourcing Responsibility: The Human Cost of Privatized Immigration Detention in Otero County” (Las Cruces, NM: The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, 2011),