ARTESIA, N.M. — Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson toured a newly opened detention facility for immigrant families Friday in New Mexico. After he tour, he told reporters he believes detention will deter future illegal crossings.
About 400 immigrant women and children are currently housed in single-story buildings within the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia. Most came from Central America and were apprehended at the Texas-Mexico border.
The buildings they stay in once housed Border Patrol trainees. In total the new detention center, which opened June 27, can house up to 700 people.
The migrants sleep in office-like rooms with four sets of bunk beds, a desk and a television. They share shower and restroom facilities. There's also a windowless playroom with toys.
Johnson said the first round of deportations would happen within a week.
"A good number of them are surprised that they are being detained, and sent back so quickly," he said.
Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission said in a press call this week there's no evidence to show detention will stop people from fleeing violence. She compares people escaping extreme gang violence in Central America to people escaping a burning house.
"If they are in a burning house they're going jump out the window, run out the door, find a way out regardless," Brané said.
The Obama administration stopped housing families at a detention center in Texas five years ago amid humanitarian concerns. Now the president’s $3.7 billion dollar plan to address the ongoing crisis includes opening more family detention centers.