Otero County Processing Center

Otero County Processing Center Information

Life Inside Otero County Processing Center 

The Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico provides an illuminating glimpse into daily life inside a large U.S. immigrant detention center. Operated by the private prison firm Management & Training Corporation, OCPC houses adult male detainees of all security classification levels in a remote corner of the New Mexican desert.

## OCPC Operations and Infrastructure

OCPC first opened in 2003 and was designed to accommodate up to 1,000 detainees. As of March 2021, the average daily population stood at 951 with an average length of stay of 48 days. The top three nationalities in the detainee population were Cuban, Mexican and Indian nationals. 

The facility entrance is monitored 24/7 by the Control Center which oversees key control, detainee counts, emergency management and public address system operations. This nerve center of the facility is critical for maintaining overall security and control.

The detainee population is classified as low, medium low, medium high or high custody. Low and high custody detainees are strictly prohibited from comingling and are housed in separate units. The general population lives in 20 dormitory-style units with 50 beds each, designated A1 through D6. For segregated housing, there are 43 restrictive housing beds and 15 medical/infirmary beds on-site.

Recreation Specialists work to coordinate activities and wellness programs for the detainees to participate in during their stay. However, work programs were sharply limited in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only a small number of detainees were allowed to work limited hours in the laundry facilities.

## Detainees from Over 60 Countries 

With immigration detainees from over 60 countries, OCPC provides language services and translation support to facilitate communication between multilingual detainees and English-speaking staff. The wide diversity of nationalities and languages adds to the richness of experiences detainees bring with them into the facility. 

Common languages spoken by OCPC detainees include Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Vietnamese, French, Haitian Creole and more. This language diversity presents challenges for staff interacting with the detainee population. Vital actions like medical assessments, disciplinary proceedings and immigration interviews require reliable, nuanced translation services.

## Daily Life Inside OCPC

So what is daily life actually like for those held inside OCPC's gates and razor-wire fences? Detainees are provided set times for meals, recreation, religious services, education and more to impose structure and routine on detainees' days. They have access to commissary, books, games, televisions and telephones to occupy their abundant free time. 

A typical day begins early with breakfast followed by sanitation and cleaning tasks, detainee counts and morning recreation. Later shifts are assigned to work programs like laundry, barbering, janitorial work and grounds maintenance. Lunch and dinner are provided at regular times interspersed with additional recreation and free time. Opportunities for exercise and fresh air are critical for maintaining physical and mental health in confinement.

## Staying Connected to the Outside World

OCPC provides various means for detainees to stay connected with family, friends and loved ones in the outside world. Mail policies allow detainees to send and receive letters to maintain ties. Incoming mail is screened for contraband before being delivered within 24 hours. Outgoing letters are collected and routed daily. Stamps are available for purchase or provided free to indigent detainees. Packages are permitted only with prior authorization.

Visitation schedules also allow for in-person visits on weekends. One hour is allocated per visit, with possible extensions for long distance travelers. Security processing requires visitors to arrive 45 minutes early. Limits apply to the number and age of visitors. Attorney visits are accommodated daily from 8am to 10pm with valid credentials.

While detainees cannot receive incoming calls, urgent messages can be left by calling the facility. Outgoing domestic and international calls are permitted using debit accounts. Video visitation has also been implemented to supplement in-person visits. Staying connected to loved ones is crucial for detainees’ mental health and morale.

## Medical, Dental and Mental Health Care 

The OCPC Medical Department operates 24/7 to provide medical, dental and mental health services to detainees using the Telton tablet system for sick call requests. Nurses triage cases and detainees are seen by doctors, dentists or psychiatrists within 24 hours whenever possible. More involved procedures may require transporting detainees to off-site hospitals or specialists. 

However, providing adequate mental health care remains a systemic challenge in detention facilities like OCPC. Conditions of confinement can exacerbate anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. OCPC offers limited counseling services but comprehensive reforms are still needed to fully meet detainee mental health needs.

## Bond Posting and Transfer upon Release 

Immigration judges have the authority to grant conditional release from detention by posting bond. Once a bond amount is set, approved visitors can post the full cash bond at OCPC to secure a detainee's release. Cashier's checks, money orders and certified checks are accepted. 

Upon release, detainees are permitted to take only one small piece of luggage with their personal belongings. No electronics are allowed for security reasons. Any cash bonds are returned at the conclusion of immigration proceedings.

For those not granted bond, they await transfer to other ICE detention facilities around the country to await their final immigration hearings. When transferred out from OCPC, only legal mail will be forwarded to the detainee's next address. 

## An Imperfect System Seeking Improvement

Daily life inside OCPC reveals the challenging realities facing America's sprawling immigration detention complex. While OCPC aims to provide quality services to those in its custody, complaints still arise about access to legal resources, medical care, mental health treatment, nutrition and overall conditions. 

As debates continue on immigration policy and detention practices, OCPC remains duty-bound to uphold the safety, security and relative wellbeing of the thousands of detainees processed through its gates each year. Gaining firsthand insights into daily operations allows for meaningful public discourse on where progress must be made. There are still many opportunities to improve.

## Frequently Asked Questions

**What are the visitation hours at OCPC?**

Visitation hours vary based on security levels but generally take place on weekends. All visitors must arrive 45 minutes early to clear processing and security.

**Can detainees receive money through the mail?**

It is not recommended to send cash in the mail. Any funds will be deposited into the detainee's account.

**What types of services are provided for disabled detainees?** 

OCPC provides disability-related accommodations as needed, including accessible housing and facilities.

**How can detainees submit complaints about conditions?**

Detainees can file written grievances to the facility administration. Outside complaints can be directed to DHS/ICE oversight agencies.

**Are there pro bono lawyers available to help detainees?**

Yes, a list of pro bono legal aid organizations is posted in the housing units.

Phone: 575-443-2945

Physical Address:
Otero County Processing Center
26 McGregor Range Road
Chaparral, NM 88081

Mailing Address (personal mail):
Otero County Processing Center
Inmate’s Full Name & Housing Unit
Otero County Detention Center
1958 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
Alamogordo, NM 88310

Other Jails and Prisons

Search Otero County Processing Center Inmates

Search Otero County Processing Center Inmates

How Do You Find Someone in the Otero County Processing Center?

How to Find Someone in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detainee Locator

When someone that is not a US Citizen gets arrested in the United States, and they are here illegally, depending on what state or city they are arrested in, the person may be turned over to ICE. 

Many states such as New York and California, as well as hundreds of US cities, have declared themselves 'sanctuary cities' and do not turn over foreigners here illegally, even if they are committing crimes in their jurisdiction.

However, when an alien here illegally is turned over to ICE, and sent to one of the over 100 Immigration Detention Centers in the United States, the only way to try and locate where they are being detained is using the Online Detainee Locator System.

There are two ways to search for an ICE Detainee:

You can look them up using their assigned A-Number.

  • An A-Number is a 9-digit number that either looks like this: A-123456789, or like this 123-456-789. This is required if you do not know their name.
    It is also called a Registration Number when on a visa, or a USCIS# when on a Green Card.
    If for whatever reason the A-Number you have does not have 9-digits, you need to add 0s (zeroes) to the front of the number until the number has 9-digits.

    That number might then look like this:  001234567.

You can also try and look them up by using their name.

  • In order for this to be effective, you need to have the exact name that is either on their paperwork, or the the name with the exact spelling that they gave ICE. This is required.
  • You also need to know the country of their birth, or the country of their birth that they gave ICE. This is required.
  • Knowing their Date of Birth is helpful but not required to find them in the system.

Important things to know about using the ICE Detainee Locator

  • You do not need to set up an account to use the Detainee Locator System.
  • A-Number stands for 'Alien Registration Number'.
  • The System does not have information on all detainees in custody.
  • Juvenile names are NOT in the System.
  • The Detainee Locator System is updated every 8 hours, sometimes sooner.
  • If the detainee is being moved to a new facility, the new location will not be shown until they have arrived and are processed. 
  • No warnings or prior notice are given in advance of a detainee being moved.
  • While being transferred to a different facility they may still be shown online as being in the original facility.
  • If you are planning a visit, always call before you come to confirm the detainee is still at the facility and has not been moved.
  • To visit a detainee you must have some type of government issued photo ID, or other identification when photo identification is unavailable for religious reasons.
  • If you are unable to find the detainee using the System, contact the ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in the area where you believe the person's immigration case was initiated or the Detainee Reporting and Information Line (DRIL) at 888-351-4024.

Pamphlets in various languages with Instructions on how to use the Online Detainee Locator System:

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Directions / Map to the Otero County Processing Center
Understanding US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

What is an ICE Detention Center?

Men, women, and children that are in the United States illegally and are apprehended by the US Border Patrol or ICE will most likely be placed in removal proceedings and may be detained in one of the more than 200 jails and detention centers that make up ICE’s detention system.

Many of the illegal immigrants that are detained are held in county and local jails that contract with ICE to detain immigrants. The rest are held in dedicated immigration detention facilities run by ICE or contracted to private prison corporations, including family detention centers that hold mothers and children.

What Determines if an Illegal Immigrant gets Detained?

ICE will typically detain an immigrant because DHS (Homeland Security) believes that an illegal immigrant is either a “flight risk” and may move to another location within the U.S. or that they pose a public safety threat. Detaining the person allows the government to guarantee that the person will show up for their hearing before an Immigration Court.

Some of the reasons that causes an illegal immigrant to get arrested and held in detention prior to their day in court is as follows:

The illegal immigrant has:

  • committed a crime, or multiple crimes
  • arrived at the border without a visa prior to formally applying for asylum or refugee status
  • an outstanding removal (deportation) order on record, either pending or past due, or
  • missed prior immigration hearing dates.


How do you find someone that is in an ICE Detention Center?

The first step to finding out if an illegal immigrant is in ICE or DHS custody is by using the ICE Detainee Locator.

It’s easier to find the person if you have an Alien Number (A#), if one exists. A green card or work permit will show this number. If you don’t have an A# the person is much more difficult to locate.

The information you will need is as follows:

  • the person’s full name as it appears in the ICE System. The exact spelling and the order of how the name is listed is required.
  • the person’s date of birth
  • the person’s country of birth

If you are having difficulty, try different spellings and the order of how the name is listed.

If the illegal immigrant was only recently detained, the ICE Detainee Locator may not be updated with the latest information. Keep in mind that ICE does not give information (online or over the phone) for people under 18 years of age. In such cases, you can only get information on them from the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field office nearest you.

If the person you are looking for is not in an ICE Detention Center, they may have been taken to a local jail that contracts with ICE, so contact their local City and County Jail, all which can be found here.

Another option, short of the expense of hiring an Immigration Lawyer, is to go to this website and use their online form to get their help.

Once an illegal immigrant is located and you find out the facility where they are being held you need to find out the Deportation Officer that has been assigned to their case. The Officer can tell you how to call or visit the detainee, or pay for the detainee to be able to call you, or how you can send any needed items such as clothing, prescriptions, etc.

The last option, and the most expensive, is to hire an experienced immigration attorney to assist you in tracking down the Deportation Officer. If the person being detained requires specific medical care, an attorney can ensure that they receive that care.

If the detained illegal immigrant has been deported from America previously or has an outstanding removal order - in which case they have no right to see an immigration judge - they can be removed within a few days, or even hours, of the initial arrest.

Even if the government does not immediately remove the person, it is possible that they can be moved around to different Detention Centers. There is never a warning that a person is being moved around and during the transfer there is a complete blackout of any information.

How long are people held in ICE Immigration Detention Centers?

The time that an illegal immigrant is held in an ICE Detention Center can vary. It all depends on several factors such as the individual’s personal situation, criminal record, the severity of the crime they are being charged with, previous deportations and the current caseload that the Detention Center is dealing with.

This image portrays the most recent data available on the time a detained illegal immigrant remains in custody before their release and/or deportation.

Can you visit someone in ICE Detention Centers?

The short answer is yes. The person visiting an illegal immigrant in an ICE Detention Center must be lawfully present in the United States. In other words the visitor must have some form of currently valid immigration status at the time of the visit. A detention center or jail will not allow the visit unless visitor can show valid I.D. and offer proof that they are lawfully in the United States.

If you want to become a volunteer that visits illegal immigrants in order to offer emotional support, it may be possible. You can join one of these visitation networks by going here and contacting the network in your area.

What crimes can cause an illegal immigrant to be deported?

(The following information comes from Nolo.com, a trusted legal resource)

  • Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude (see list). This includes any attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime. It does not include crimes that were committed that the illegal immigrant committed when they were under the age of 18 years, however the person must have been released from jail more than five years before applying for a visa or other immigration benefit. It also does not include crimes for which the maximum penalty did not exceed one year in prison and the person was not, in fact, sentenced to more than six months in prison.
  • Conviction or admission of a controlled substance violation, whether under U.S. or foreign law. This includes any conspiracy to commit such a crime.
  • Convictions for two or more crimes (other than purely political ones) for which the prison sentences totaled at least five years. This multiple-offense ground of inadmissibility applies whether or not the convictions came from a single trial and whether or not the offenses arose from a single scheme of misconduct or involved moral turpitude.
  • Conviction of or participation in (according to the reasonable belief of the U.S. government) controlled substance trafficking. This includes anyone who knowingly aided, abetted, assisted, conspired, or colluded in illicit drug trafficking. It also includes the spouse, son, or daughter of the inadmissible applicant if that person has, within the last five years, received any financial or other benefit from the illicit activities, and knew or reasonably should have known where the money or benefit came from.
  • Having the purpose of engaging in prostitution or commercialized vice upon coming to the United States, or a history, within the previous ten years, of having engaged in prostitution.
  • Procurement or attempted procurement or importation of prostitutes, directly or indirectly, or receipt of proceeds of prostitution, any of which occurred within the previous ten years.
  • Assertion of immunity from prosecution after committing a serious criminal offense in the U.S., if the person was thus able to depart the U.S. and has not since submitted fully to the jurisdiction of the relevant U.S. Court.
  • Commission of particularly severe violations of religious freedom while serving as a foreign government official.
  • Commission of or conspiracy to commit human trafficking offenses, within or outside the U.S., or being a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with such a trafficker according to the knowledge or reasonable belief of the U.S. government. Also inadmissible are the spouse, son, or daughter the applicant if they, within the previous five years (but when older than children), received financial or other benefits from the illicit activity and knew or reasonably should have known that the money or other benefit came from the illicit activity.
  • Conviction of an aggravated felony, if the person was removed from the U.S. and seeks to return (this ground of inadmissibility lasts for 20 years)
  • Seeking to enter the U.S. to engage in money laundering, or a history of having laundered money, or having been (according to the knowledge of the U.S. government) a knowing aider, abettor, assister, conspirator, or colluder with money launderers.

These are the straightforward crimes that are mentioned in the immigration law. The statute also lists a number of security violations, such as involvement in espionage, sabotage, terrorism, Nazi persecution, totalitarian parties, and so forth.

Once an illegal immigrant is deported, how long before they can come back to the United States?

If an illegal immigrant has a deportation or removal order in their immigration file, it's possible that they won’t be allowed to enter the U.S. for five, ten, or even 20 years.

The applicable law comes from Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.).

Five-Year Ban: If they were summarily removed or deported upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry because they were found inadmissible, or if they came to the U.S. but were immediately put into removal proceedings and then removed or deported, they may be ineligible to return to the U.S. for five years. The five-year ban also applies if they failed to show up for their removal hearing in the United States.

Ten-Year Ban: If a ‘removal order’ was issued at the conclusion of their removal hearing in Immigration Court, they may not be able to return for ten years after their removal or departure.

Twenty-Year Ban: If they were convicted of an aggravated felony or have received more than one order of removal, they are barred from returning to the U.S. for 20 years. And if they entered without permission after having been removed, or illegally reentered the U.S. after having previously been in the U.S. unlawfully for more than one year, they may be barred from entering the United States for 20 years or permanently.

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This facility, known as "Otero County Processing Center" is also known as ICE Detention Facility, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.