Detainees at Guantanamo Bay could be housed at area centers
By Ramon Bracamontes / El Paso Times
Posted: 01/23/2009 12:00:00 AM MST
EL PASO -- While it is unknown where the 245 Guantanamo Bay prison camp inmates will be held when it shuts down in a year, it is possible some may end up one immigration detention center in El Paso and one just outside the city limits.
In his executive order to close Guantanamo in Cuba, President Barack Obama gave a task force 30 days to recommend policies on where Guantanamo detainees should be housed once it closes, and how terror suspects held in the future will be handled.
The El Paso Processing Center, which is operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, can hold up to 840 detainees. On Thursday, the El Paso center, which is near the airport, had 760 detainees.
The Otero County Processing Center, which is in New Mexico outside of the Northeast El Paso city limits, has room for 1,000 detainees. It is privately owned and contracts with ICE and other federal agencies. The center had 768 ICE detainees Thursday.
All detainees at the two centers are suspected of violating immigration laws and are either awaiting trial or deportation.
"On any given day, you will find people there from every country in the world," ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said.
If needed, ICE also has contracts with 68 other jails and detention centers in the El Paso-New Mexico region that can house immigration detainees.
U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman, said he supports President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo.
"The military prison at Guantanamo Bay has become a symbol for the previous abuses and mistreatment of detainees, and I fully support efforts to close the facility," he said. "Today's actions by President Obama are important first steps in working to provide America's Intelligence Community with the tools and resources they need to keep America safe, and at the same time restore the United States to its proper place as a leader in the respect for human dignity and rights."
Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at rbracamontes@...