New Mexico lawmakers want probe of 2 virus cases at Otero ICE facility

April 10, 2020
In The News

CHAPARRAL, New Mexico -- Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation called Friday for the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to review the circumstances surrounding two coronavirus cases at the agency's facility in Chaparral.
"We are deeply troubled that an employee and migrant have both contracted Covid-19 at the Otero County Processing Center, and we believe this demands a thorough review," wrote U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small.


Word of the two virus cases first came from the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, which Heinrich's office said it later confirmed.

"The contraction of Covid-19 at the Otero ICE facility raises significant questions about ICE’s preparation and ability to contain the virus and demonstrates the immediate need for a comprehensive assessment on how ICE plans to respond to an outbreak of Covid-19 to protect staff and detainees from infection," the lawmakers said in their letter to acting ICE director Matthew Albence.

The confirmed virus cases come after a Cuban immigrant released from that facility earlier this week had warned in an interview with ABC-7 of a virus threat inside it.
57-year-old Juan Villa Rodriguez, who was detained there for five months, said he was deathly afraid of contracting Covid-19 because he and other detainees had no protection or social distancing.

“You have to be afraid, because its a person’s life, right?" he said.