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The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico has prepared dorm rooms to temporarily house the children and young families. (Photo by Josh Denmark — Customs and Border Patrol)

(Washington, D.C.) July 17, 2014 — On June 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced they would open a temporary facility to detain undocumented immigrant families in Artesia, New Mexico. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has been asked to provide chaplains to help meet the spiritual needs of these families in detention.

The families are being held at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and residents are housed in the former dorms used for CBP trainees. Currently, more than 600 people are being held at the facility. The site has a capacity of 700. DHS said the "campus was selected as a temporary facility because it offers a more appropriate environment for the care and custody of adults with children and is cost-effective."

One Jesuit Refugee Service/USA chaplain will serve the people there from July 27 through Aug 14, and another JRS/USA chaplain from Aug. 12 to Aug 26. A chaplain from Church World Service is currently serving the people held in Artesia, and another from CWS will return when the JRS/USA chaplains depart. It is expected the rotation will remain as such for the foreseeable future.

The El Paso Times has photos of the facility; the gallery can be seen here.

For related stories, see 

Jesuit recommendations for smart responses to increased migration from Central America

Spotlight on increased migration from Central America


Jesuit Refugee Service/USA chaplaincy programs provide pastoral and religious assistance to meet the needs of non-citizens detained by the Department of Homeland Security in three U.S. federal detention centers located in Texas, Arizona and New York. These programs enable people of all faiths to have access to pastoral care within their faith tradition. A new site for families was added in July, 2014, in Artesia, New Mexico.

Through June 2014, JRS/USA chaplaincy programs in Texas, Arizona and New York coordinated 627 religious services, 248 religious teachings, and 324 spiritual support sessions totaling 20,973 unique or multiple participations by detainees. JRS/USA's chaplaincy staff spent nearly 559 hours of direct service offering religious services, religious teachings, and spiritual support. 

In addition, our chaplains spent 520 hours visiting detainees in special housing units as well as almost 825 hours providing detainees with religious items, processing requests for religious diets, handling marriage requests, tending to special needs, facilitating volunteer applications, and addressing emergency notifications. 

Volunteers played a significant role by giving 698 hours for religious services, religious teachings, and spiritual support. The religious profile of the detainee population that participated in chaplaincy programs was 37% Roman Catholic, 39% other Christian faiths, 12% Muslim, less than 1% Jewish, and 13% other religions, mostly Hinduism, Rastafari, and Sikhism. Eighteen percent of services were offered in English; 55% in Spanish or bilingual English/Spanish, and 27% were in other languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, and Punjabi.


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