ABQ Immigrant Rights Activists: ‘Close the Camps!’

Albuquerque immigrant rights activists hit the streets on Tuesday for the #CloseTheCamps rally. Activists called on NM congressional delegates to stop funding detention centers and camps that are holding immigrant asylum-seekers, including migrant children in inhumane conditions. // Photograph Courtesy of NM Dream Team

NM Dream Team lead a rally calling to defund ICE, CBP outside the offices of N.M. congressional delegates in the midst of H.R.3401 going into law


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In solidarity with the #CloseTheCamps protests that were planned across the nation, Tuesday, a crowd of Albuquerque grassroots activists, lead by the NM Dream Team, a statewide immigrant-rights organization, gathered outside the offices of N.M. congressional delegates in downtown Albuquerque. 

The activists called on Congress to shutdown camps that are housing migrants, who have presented themselves at the southern border, to defund family detention and deportation, and to reunite the families that have been separated under the Trump Administration’s family separation policies. 

Activists specifically called on Congress to defund U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The activists also condemned the three New Mexico congress members for voting to approve H.R.3401.

“We must defund ICE and CBP,” said Blanca Bañuelos, an organizer of NM Dream Team. “Trump’s deportation force is targeting detaining, and deporting our community without any humane concerns or consequences … This money is not going to better the situation at the border. This is only going to worsen the situation. Children are going to continue to get ripped away from their parents. Parents are going to continue to get tear gased at the border. How many more people have to die in these concentration camps for Congress to realize that the deportation force doesn’t need anymore funding?” 

The money that Bañuelos alluded to is bill, H.R.3401. The bill appropriates $4.5 billion “in FY2019 emergency supplemental appropriations to federal departments and agencies for humanitarian assistance and security to respond to migrants attempting to enter the United States at the southern border,” according to a summary on Congress.gov

H.R.3401 became law Tuesday. The bill sparked public outcry around the nation while it made its way through Congress and sparked the national #CloseTheCamps rally.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) tweeted, “I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for a bill that allows this administration to continue wasting resources on harmful policies that refuse to provide proper care for children, force local communities to foot the bill & create a crisis out of a challenge.”

Haaland appeared at the rally Tuesday to express her support for the immigrant rights movement and migrant families. 

Haaland voted against the bill along with Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).

“I am heartbroken. I am heartbroken about the treatment of human beings on the southern border,”Haaland said to the crowd. “I want you to know that I voted against that stinkin’ Senate bill. It did not allow the protections that we needed for the people that we care about.”

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) speaking at the #CloseTheCamps rally, Tuesday, outside the New Mexico congressional offices in downtown Albuquerque. “I want to make sure that we are raising our voices. Lets make sure this administration knows where we all stand. We are New Mexicans, and we stand up for people,” Haaland said. “We’re New Mexicans, and we stand for equality, and justice and humanity.” // Photograph Courtesy of NM Dream Team

A representative of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) stood up to read a prepared statement to the crowd to justify the senator’s vote on H.R.3401 and was met with boos and chants from the crowd.

“Defund ICE!”, “Close the Camps!”, the protesters chanted over Heinrich’s representative, whose statement was drowned out by the chants.  

A representative of Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) then gave personal testimony and first-hand reports of conditions at the Clint, Texas detention camp. Heinrich’s statements were met with chants from the crowd: “Close the Camps!”

Udall and Heinrich voted for the border funding bill. Rep. Xochitl Torres Smalls (D-NM) also voted in support of the bill.

The activists criticized the members of Congress for their actions.

“On the most recent appropriations of money for border, Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representative Torres-Smalls voted in favor of adding more than $4 billion for ICE and CBP,” Bañuelos said to the crowd. “That’s money going towards a racist and homophobic agenda. This is unacceptable. Stop speaking about how you care about our people just to be elected then turn your back on us when you get into power. We demand all the New Mexico delegation to have control and oversight, to close the concentration camps, and to not to give one more dollar to ICE and CPB. Instead, you should be working to defund these institutions that are out of control.”

The young organizer said the U.S. Government should provide humane solutions and expand case management for people presenting themselves at the border seeking political asylum instead of funding the administration’s practices for detaining migrant families.

U.S. Congress members, lawyers, and healthcare providers that have been given access to the CPB facility housing migrant children in Clint, Texas outside of El Paso have reported severe overcrowding, poor living conditions, and abusive behavior by facility agents. 

Journalists are not allowed to enter these facilities or camps.

New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, American Friends Service Committee, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, The Red Nation, and Resist Tyranny Tuesday were among the advocacy groups who spoke during the rally.

A small group of the activists was invited into the office of the N.M. congress members to deliver a signed letter demanding migrant detention and deportation be defunded, the camps housing migrant families and children be closed, and for migrant families separated at the border to be reunited.

Blanca Bañuelos, an organizer of NM Dream Team, began the #CloseTheCamps. // Photograph Courtesy of the NM Dream Team

Watch the ABQ #CloseTheCamps rally footage below: