ARTESIA, N.M. (KRQE) – Nearly 200 illegal immigrants caught crossing the United States border are now in New Mexico.
The federal government says the process of moving the influx of immigrants is going smoothly, but state law enforcement still has some concerns.
Friday, 168 undocumented immigrants escaping violent Central American countries arrived in Artesia.
The women and children are living at barracks set up inside the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center awaiting a hearing or deportation.
While Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say the immigrants are no threat to the Artesia community, the New Mexico Department of Safety says its concerned.
In an interview with Watchdog.org, Department of Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt said, “We’re worried there might be more crime than what Homeland Security is worried about.”
Fouratt told the media outlet he’s concerned the people who lose their immigration hearings, meaning they have to go back to their home countries, will try to escape the Artesia facility.
An 8-foot chain-link fence encloses the area.
Fouratt told the Watchdog that fence might not be enough to stop escapees.
Artesia residents agree.
“It’s not that hard to get over an 8-foot fence because most people can climb an 8-foot fence easy let alone someone who is wanting to get out,” said Destry Kinnibrugh.
No one with a criminal background is allowed at the facility and they say if someone acts up they’ll be removed.
ICE officials say there are security guards there at all times, but they aren’t armed.
“What’s an unarmed security guard going to do against three or four people if they get out or want to get out? That’s not good enough,” said Kinnibrugh.
There is a community meeting about the situation Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Artesia recreation center.
Federal and local officials will be there to answer questions.