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New Mexico must guarantee safety and dignity for all


The 56th legislative session in New Mexico is almost over, and this is the time to prioritize the safety and well-being of every community and individual in our state. One way to start is by getting  Senate Bill 299 and Senate Bill 172 all the way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 299 focuses on immigrant youth who qualify for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) are unaccompanied minors who left terrible violence, extreme poverty, and unstable governments in Central and South America. These youth are in need of guardians to provide them safety and stability. Through the SIJS process, many immigrant youth obtain guardians, healthcare access, and a sense of safety and stability because they no longer have to fear deportation.

However, a major issue with the current state law is that many immigration attorneys have to rush to meet court age-out deadlines for immigrant youth who are about to turn 18. If the immigrant youth are right at the cusp of aging out, there is no guarantee that they will meet the deadline in time to apply for SIJS. Therefore, extending the age-out deadline is crucial to ensure that qualifying immigrant youth will have more time to apply for SIJS, and more immigrant youth will have a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship.

As Bryan Avila, an Undocuqueer Organizer in the NM Dream Team, said, “I’m a couple of months away from turning 21, and I don’t want other youth like me to lose this opportunity, an opportunity that can be a pathway to citizenship in the future. The immigrant youth community deserves this, I deserve this opportunity!”

In addition to addressing the needs of immigrant youth, New Mexico must also take action to end the inhumane treatment of individuals in detention centers run by ICE –a system that has significantly expanded over the past three decades, and it has stripped thousands of people of their freedom.

Local governments frequently hire private prison companies to run the facilities. This system has led to numerous reports of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment of individuals in detention, including inadequate medical care, poor living conditions, and limited access to legal representation. Senate Bill 172 would put an end to this inhumane system.

As Fernanda Banda, Campaign Manager at NM Dream Team, shared, “For 8 months my father was held in the Otero County Detention Facility in Chaparral. For those 8 months we probably shared maybe 3 phone calls and only a handful of words. I know he was in pain and confused and completely alone. He was barely fed, slept on the floor, and did not have shoes for most of his detention. I remember the way my mother cried over the phone when my dad told her he was just gonna take his deportation instead of fighting his immigration case because he just couldn’t take it anymore.”

It’s time for New Mexico to guarantee safety and dignity for all, regardless of immigration status. This means ending the inhumane treatment of individuals in detention centers and providing a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for immigrant youth.

Fernanda Banda is the Campaigns Manager for NM Dream Team. Bryan Avila is the UndocuQueer organizer for NM Dream Team.

Fernanda Banda is the Campaigns Manager for NM Dream Team.
Bryan Avila is the UndocuQueer organizer for NM Dream Team.