CIBOLA REFUGEES

Cibola County Correctional Facility was a federal prison in Milan, NM, that was shut down in October 2016 due to medical violations. In early 2017, it reopened as an immigration detention center run by CoreCivic, a for-profit prison company.  Most of the people held in the prison are political asylum seekers who have fled violence in their home countries and presented themselves at the US border asking for help. By March, the prison was housing the greatest percentage of asylum seekers of any detention center in the country. Located in a remote community 80 miles from Albuquerque, the refugees detained at Cibola have very little access to legal counsel, and detained immigrants without legal representation are statistically unlikely to win their cases.

Santa Fe Dreamers Project, in partnership with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, has been taking as many of these political asylum cases as we can. These are a few of their stories.

  Joel  was a gospel singer and IT technician in the Democratic Republic of Congo who was detained at Cibola. He expressed his opinion in a song where he criticized the current government for killing, persecuting, and raping people. Because of the song he recorded, he was tortured, beaten and threatened with death before fleeing his country.  He was detained at Cibola for 6 months before winning his political asylum case. 

Joel was a gospel singer and IT technician in the Democratic Republic of Congo who was detained at Cibola. He expressed his opinion in a song where he criticized the current government for killing, persecuting, and raping people. Because of the song he recorded, he was tortured, beaten and threatened with death before fleeing his country.  He was detained at Cibola for 6 months before winning his political asylum case. 

  Zepherino  worked in industrial automation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also volunteered at a refugee camp for Angolan refugees, before becoming a refugee himself after the government tried to burn him alive for participating in a peaceful protest in support of human rights. He was detained at Cibola for 9 months before winning his political asylum case. Zepherino's story is being featured in an independent documentary film project.

Zepherino worked in industrial automation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also volunteered at a refugee camp for Angolan refugees, before becoming a refugee himself after the government tried to burn him alive for participating in a peaceful protest in support of human rights. He was detained at Cibola for 9 months before winning his political asylum case. Zepherino's story is being featured in an independent documentary film project.

  Alpha  had recently completed degrees in Accounting and in German in his home country of Guinea. He was active as a student organizer and vocal on the radio about his criticism of the government and his vision for a better Guinea. He was tortured multiple times for this, and when the government came looking to kill him, he fled for his life. Alpha was detained at Cibola for 6.5 months before winning his political asylum case. His story is being featured in an independent documentary film project.

Alpha had recently completed degrees in Accounting and in German in his home country of Guinea. He was active as a student organizer and vocal on the radio about his criticism of the government and his vision for a better Guinea. He was tortured multiple times for this, and when the government came looking to kill him, he fled for his life. Alpha was detained at Cibola for 6.5 months before winning his political asylum case. His story is being featured in an independent documentary film project.

“Thank God for the pro bono lawyers. They’re saving human lives. They support and encourage the people who are there in very difficult and precarious conditions. People who are are suffering. The lawyers’ presence gave us strength. They do work that comes from the heart. They’ve accepted to put their lives in the service of helping others. I can only say thank you, and that this work can’t stop. Because if it ever did stop, there are a lot of lives that would perish.”

- Joel