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GUNNISON – Bernardo Medina was leaving a brief traffic-offense hearing in a Gunnison County courtroom Jan. 27 when he was stopped by federal immigration...
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokespeople balked at questions posed by the Colorado Independent in January about the roughly nine ICE "substation" holding facilities located throughout the state. They downplayed concerns about rights violations and about detainees disappearing for hours and days unable to be located by loved ones and advocates. Basalt-resident Edgar Niebla was held in one of the substations. He told the Colorado Independent the concerns are justified.
In a series of charged emails to the Colorado Independent prompted by a report on the existence of unlisted immigrant-detention "subfield offices" in the state, Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, wrote to clarify that the offices were used only for processing suspects. He said immigrants suspected of violations were held at the agency's subfield offices for up to approximately two hours before being transferred to long-term holding facilities. He conceded that contact information for the facilities was unavailable and that detainees being processed at the offices were not allowed to contact relatives or attorneys before being transferred to the larger facilities. The nature of the processing done in the offices, however, was merely transitional, he wrote, and the offices were not "secret."
The detention policies of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in Colorado and the network of facilities that has grown here in the last few years are drawing increasing attention among local lawmakers and human rights organizations. Critics of the system say men and women held on suspicion of immigration violations in the state are housed in conditions that rival those established for violent criminal offenders, that the immigrants are becoming fodder for a booming detention industry, and that detainees are often difficult to locate in the tangle of state facilities, which include unlisted so-called subfield offices.