West Texas Detention Facility

West Texas Detention Facility Information

West Texas Detention Facility: A Look Inside One of America's Largest Immigrant Detention Centers 

## Introduction

In recent years, immigration detention and deportations have been on the rise in the United States. To accommodate the increase in detained immigrants, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relies on a network of facilities across the country. One of the largest is the West Texas Detention Facility (WTDF) located in Sierra Blanca, Texas. With a capacity for holding over 1,000 detainees, WTDF provides insight into the operations of America’s expansive immigration detention system.

WTDF first opened in 2004 and is owned by Hudspeth County. The facility is operated by the private corporation LaSalle Corrections under contract with ICE. In 2007, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office based in El Paso began housing detainees at WTDF. The facility adheres to ICE's 2000 National Detention Standards and oversight is provided by ERO's local field office director. 

## History and Operations

WTDF became operational in 2004 after its construction by Hudspeth County, Texas. The facility was designed specifically for housing detainees on behalf of ICE. 

In 2007, ICE entered into a contract with LaSalle Corrections to operate WTDF and began using it to detain immigrants apprehended in the El Paso area and parts of New Mexico. Oversight is provided by ERO's field office director based in El Paso.

The facility operates under ICE's 2000 National Detention Standards. Various personnel work at WTDF including a warden who handles daily operations. LaSalle Corrections provides food services and commissary while medical care is supplied by a private contractor, Preferred Hospital Leasing Van Horn, Inc.

As of 2021, WTDF had a detainee bed capacity of 450. The facility holds no formal accreditations from external organizations. Its only audit has been a 2019 inspection for compliance with Department of Justice Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards, which it passed.

## Detainee and Visitor Information 

Contact information for WTDF is listed below:

- Main Phone: (915) 369-2272  
- Field Office: (915) 225-0885
- Address: 401 S. Vaquero Avenue, Sierra Blanca, TX 79851

For questions about a detainee held at WTDF, call between 8AM-5PM and provide:

- Full legal name and any aliases
- Date of birth  
- Country of birth

Visitation policies are:

- Friday-Saturday: 8AM - 5PM
- Sunday-Monday: 8AM - 5PM 
- 30 minutes per visit, with option to extend
- Max 2 visitors at a time
- ID required for adults
- 30 min arrival ahead of time
- Minors must be accompanied by guardian

Attorneys can visit clients any day from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

## Life Inside WTDF

A typical day for a detainee at WTDF involves set schedules for meals, recreation time, religious services, and other activities. 

Detainees are housed in pods organized into units of 50-100 people. Each unit has communal showers, tables for meals, and phones. There are also solitary cells used for administrative or disciplinary segregation. 

Various reports have cited issues like overcrowding and inadequate access to medical care. Detainees have complained about the lack of outdoor recreation, with some being confined for months or years without going outside.

Demographically, detainees come from countries around the world, most commonly Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

WTDF offers some programs including basic adult education, ESL classes, citizenship classes, and library access. However, vocational training and robust programming are lacking compared to criminal prisons.

## Immigration Process while Detained

Once detained at WTDF, immigrants undergo legal proceedings to determine if they will be deported or permitted to stay in the US. 

Many appear before an immigration judge for court hearings to decide their case. However, a lack of legal representation makes challenging deportation difficult. Pro bono legal aid groups try to provide assistance to some detainees.

For asylum seekers, proving a credible fear of persecution in their home country is difficult while detained. Those who establish asylum eligibility or gain legal status may be released, while others face deportation after exhausting appeals.

Detainees have access to a law library and may receive "Know Your Rights" legal orientations. But in practice, navigating the complex immigration system from detention poses major hurdles.

## Oversight and Accountability 

WTDF is responsible to various government agencies for oversight, especially ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

Regular inspections are done by ICE's Office of Detention Oversight. Problems found during inspections sometimes, but not always, result in corrective actions.

The Department of Justice has also audited WTDF for compliance with its Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards meant to prevent sexual assault in detention. WTDF passed its most recent PREA audit in 2019.

Additionally, outside groups like human rights organizations monitor conditions and advocate for reforms when deficiencies are found. But enforceable standards and accountability measures remain lacking.

## Bond and Release Information

Immigration bonds allow for conditional release from detention while awaiting proceedings. Bonds can be paid by detainees themselves or by family/friends.

At WTDF, bonds cannot be posted directly. The nearest facility accepting immigration bonds is at 8915 Montana Ave, El Paso, TX 79925.

Using a bond agent is faster and easier than posting yourself, though it comes with a fee. Payments must be made to "US Department of Homeland Security" or "ICE."

Beyond bonds, parole and orders of supervision allow for release in limited cases. But most detainees face months or years confined while their cases progress.

## Conclusion

WTDF provides a window into America’s sprawling immigration detention system. While meant for temporary civil confinement, detainees regularly spend years locked up in facilities like WTDF. 

With reported deficiencies in medical care, recreation time, and legal access, immigration advocates argue detention center conditions and oversight must improve. The incoming Biden administration has pledged reforms, but undoing decades of policies will take time.

For the immigrants detained there in the meantime, WTDF remains full of uncertainty and fear about if and when they may be released or deported. While facilities like WTDF expand, the futures of those confined inside remain tenuous.

## FAQ

### What are visitation policies like at WTDF?

Visitation at WTDF is limited to Friday-Saturday for males and Sunday-Monday for females. Visits last 30 minutes with the option to extend. A maximum of 2 visitors are allowed at once and adults must show ID. Visitors should arrive 30 minutes early to be processed through security checkpoints.

### How can I find a detainee at WTDF and get information on their case?

You can call the WTDF main phone number between 8AM-5PM with the detainee's full legal name, aliases, date and country of birth to get information. Detainees' case info can also be found on ICE's online detainee locator. Checking there first is recommended.

### What options do detainees have for legal representation and counsel? 

Many nonprofits provide pro bono legal aid, but resources are limited. WTDF has a law library detainees can access. Lack of representation is a huge barrier, so detainees should try to secure immigration lawyers, especially if seeking asylum.

### What kind of medical care is provided to detainees at the facility?

Medical care is provided by a private contractor. Advocates have reported issues with delayed and inadequate care at WTDF. Mental health treatment is especially limited. ICE has disputed claims of improper medical treatment at the facility.

### How long do most detainees stay at WTDF before being released or deported? 

Detention lengths vary case-by-case. Many are detained for months while awaiting hearings. Those who exhaust all legal options may stay over a year before deportation. Others are released on bond, parole or legal status approval after shorter detention periods.

Phone: 915-369-2272

Physical Address:
West Texas Detention Facility
401 S Vaquero Avenue
Sierra Blanca, TX 79851

Mailing Address (personal mail):
Inmate's Full Name & A-Number
West Texas Detention Facility
401 S Vaquero Avenue
Sierra Blanca, TX 79851

Other Jails and Prisons

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How Do You Find Someone in the West Texas Detention Facility?

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 West Texas Detention Facility
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 "West Texas Detention Facility" is also known as ICE Detention Facility, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.