Detention Program

Our Detention Program staff provides legal information to individuals detained at the Cibola County Correctional Facility and Torrance County Detention Center. Prior to COVID-19, we provided legal services to an average of 300 detained asylum seekers in NM over the course of four days each week. Since COVID-19, our team has continued providing regular programming to men in Torrance and Cibola who seek our services.


Cibola County Correctional Center

Detention Center Program for Access to Legal Services (PALS)

We launched our program at Cibola in the spring of 2017 and have assisted over 3,000 detained men at that facility since then. In addition to our general legal presentations, we provided extended legal services to over 100 transgender women seeking asylum during that time. NMILC directly represented or assisted in pro bono representation for nearly one-third of those women in 2018. In 2019 alone, we helped over 2,000 detainees at Cibola. Roughly two dozen dedicated attorney and non-attorney volunteers have staffed our program at Cibola on a rotating basis in the past year.


Torrance County Detention Facility

Remote Legal Program



The Torrance facility opened in August of 2019 with a bed capacity of over 900-- all of whom we expect to legally orient.


The Torrance County Detention Facility is the second ``asylum staging center`` in the country-- following DHS' pilot program in Tallahatchie, Mississippi-- which means it is primarily designed to house people while they await their Credible Fear Interviews. After their interviews, they are transferred to a new detention center where they can apply for release and/or relief in the court, pending qualification.

Please Refer Back for Future Webinar Events

June 25, 2020

Community Update: COVID -19 and Detention in NM


If you or someone you know is currently being detained at the Cibola County Correctional Facility, please let them know that they can receive information about how to proceed in their case every Tuesday by attending our PALS program. They can ask the workers at the facility to speak to the PALS program or the “free lawyers”.

Detention Program By The Numbers

Immigrant Prisons in the News

REPORT: The Detention Drain: How immigration detention hurts New Mexico's economy

Karla Molinar Arvizo

The criminalization of immigration through policies like President Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy have swelled the numbers of people in U.S. detention centers. Recent reports have exposed the inhumane conditions in these centers, including those that have caused dozens of deaths.

Many people have rightly contested the very existence of these detention centers, given these abysmal conditions, and have called for investigation and a total reassessment of mass detention of asylum seekers and immigrants. When faced with this criticism, one of the main defenses of government officials in states and counties where the centers are located is that they make economic sense. The centers, it is argued, bring revenue and jobs to areas that need them.

Advocates fear mass suicide at ICE facility in Southern NM

Fernie Ortiz/ October 17, 2019

Two Cuban asylum seekers detained at the Otero County Processing Center attempted to commit suicide by slitting their wrists, and about 19 others have threatened to follow suit, immigrant advocates said Thursday.


Border Report spoke via phone with volunteers from the Las Cruces-based Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert. They said ICE detainees reached out to them from the facility in Otero County, New Mexico, warning about the situation and their intent to participate in a hunger strike sit-in on Friday

Nearly 900 immigrants had the Mumps in detention centers in the last year

Stephanie M. Lee/ August 29, 2019

Nearly 900 immigrants in US detention centers had the mumps over the last 12 months, the CDC said Thursday, at a time when the government is detaining a record number of undocumented people.

A total of 898 cases were reported in adult immigrants in 57 detention facilities across 19 states from Sept. 1, 2018, to Aug. 22 this year, according to the agency. An additional 33 facility staffers were also infected.

These 900-plus cases are the first outbreaks identified in detention facilities by the CDC. As of May, an apparent all-time high of more than 52,000 people were being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)



Ibrahim* recently graduated from university in West Africa, where he studied politics and foreign languages. A member of a rival political party to the government, Ibrahim had been arrested and detained several times by government police forces after participating in peaceful protests. While detained, he was denied food, forced to do unpaid labor, and tortured.

Things came to a breaking point one night when he was out of the house and the police showed up at his door. The police mistook Ibrahim's uncle, who was visiting, for Ibrahim himself, and killed him in front of his mother. Knowing his life was in danger, Ibrahim flew to South America and then declared himself as an asylum seeker at the U.S.-Mexico border.

NMILC and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project have worked together to advise Ibrahim on his case and found a pro bono attorney to directly represent him—greatly increasing the likelihood that he will win his case and be able to remain in the U.S.

Carlos* had been living in the U.S. for three years when he was stopped by ICE officers while pumping gas. The officers accused him of being a drug dealer, despite the fact that there were no drugs found in his car. ICE transported him to El Paso in a van where his hands and feet were chained along with other detainees. Eventually ICE moved him to Cibola, where he was detained for over a month. His girlfriend, who has children and is fighting cancer, struggled to make things work without his support.

Without legal representation, the odds of getting out of detention on bond are slim, but NMILC attorney Adriel Orozco was able to represent Carlos in his bond hearing after the two met during one of our weekly trips to the facility. Adriel won the case and Carlos was able to return to his loved ones while he fights his deportation case.


Silvia*, a transgender woman from Mexico, spent several years in the United States after fleeing persecution because of her gender identity. She returned to Mexico when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, but the violence she faced continued. After being trafficked by the Narcos, she knew that she had to find a way to get back to the U.S. She was detained and deported trying to reenter the country and declared herself as an asylum seeker at the U.S.-Mexico border.

For months, she was moved from one detention center to the next, all while trying to fight her case. In California, she found an attorney to represent her for free, but it was hard for them to communicate after she was relocated to Cibola. NMILC attorneys worked with Silvia's lawyer to bridge the communication gaps and ensure Silvia received the legal support she needed.

* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual


or Call Us at (505) 247-1023