Music Builds Connection at the Otero County Processing Center

Music can make a major difference. In this story, we learn how the right tune can make a powerful positive impact.
Recently, women who are in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are being assigned to be detained at the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico. It took a few operational tweaks to accommodate the request from ICE, but the staff has been more than happy to take the women under their care. This opportunity has created an interesting dynamic.

Dora Castro is the facility warden. “When the first women arrived to this facility, they were scared. Most of them had never been detained in any facility. And so I was looking for ideas on what I needed to do to bring up their morale, to help them with their mental health, to help them forget a little bit of what they’ve been through in this journey to the United States.”

Otero II Detainees Dancing Still
Detainees, Otero County Processing Center

After brainstorming Warden Castro came up with a plan. She plays the music that they love from their country.

“And so now I do it,” she explains. “I do it three times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And I do it for one hour. The women don’t even want me to leave because they want me to play more music. And then I just play music from their country. Their mind is occupied for that one hour and they’re happy. And I like to see that. I like to see them happy. And I walk back there, I ask them, ‘What do you want to hear on Wednesday?’ And they give me a list of the music that they want to hear.”

It creates a fun dynamic. “They like it. They’re excited to see me. They know I’m the lady with the music.”

dancing otero
Dora Castro, facility administrator, OCPC (right)