Detention Center Program for Access to Legal Services

In October, 2016, just months after losing its contract to be run as a prison because of human rights violations, the Cibola County Correctional Center began detaining immigrants.

This detention facility houses the greatest percentage of asylum seekers in the nation and is the only immigrant detention center in the country with a designated wing for transgender women.

We are working with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project to fight for justice and adequate legal representation for individuals detained in the facility. Each week, a small team of attorneys, legal assistants, and volunteers give presentations and provide consultations to detainees. We use a mix of pro se services and direct representation to assist as many people as possible.


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

Inside a private prison’s 150M dollar deal to detain immigrants in New Mexico

Sarah Macaraeg/ October 26, 2017


This article gives an interesting perspective on the broader issue of the privatization of detention centers and what it means for the future of immigrant detention.

“An examination of hundreds of documents from the beginning of January through mid-February 2017 shows that at least 185 immigrants were deported from the facility during that time. Immigration court has no corollary role of a public defender, and without appointed counsel to represent them, most people face removal proceedings alone.”

What Kind of Miracle: The Systematic Violation of Immigrant’s Right to Counsel at the Cibola County Correctional Center”

National Immigrant Justice Center/ November 29, 2017

This report focuses on immigrants’ lack of access to justice in Cibola and in detention facilities across the country.

“An NIJC survey of legal service providers reveals that New Mexico and Texas immigration attorneys, at their maximum capacity, are only able to represent approximately 42 detained individuals at the Cibola prison at any given time — six percent of the jail’s population in April 2017.”

“Today, DHS jails approximately 40,000 immigrants daily —more than any administration in recent history— and holds them longer. The administration has publicly embraced the use of prolonged detention for asylum seekers and moved to weaken the standards governing conditions of detention.



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


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