Commentary: Today, Senate and House Democrats are joining together to condemn Immigration Customs Enforcement audits in New Mexico. Due to recent ICE audits around the state, House and Senate Democrats want to reaffirm their strong stance against any audits or enforcement in or near New Mexico schools. A response to the commentary from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) follows.
“We know that conducting these audits is within the purview of Immigration Customs Enforcement officials, and we don’t want to get in the way of them doing their jobs; but when we’re talking about ICE in our child care centers, pre-schools, and public schools, it is uncalled for and it is immoral. We cannot be targeting children and their families. Whether undocumented or not, children are at school to learn, and should feel safe doing so. ICE does not belong in our schools,” said Representative Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque).
“These actions by ICE are causing fear and anxiety amongst students and communities at a time when heightened concern over safety is already hampering their ability to receive the education they are entitled to. It is a bullying tactic, plain and simple. We should not let our children be subject to yet another threat to their well-being,” said Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque).“And ICE presence at pre-school programs is completely inappropriate. They terrify and traumatize the students and leave working families who depend on these programs without any way of caring for their children while they are at work. This undermines the entire principle upon which we have built these state-funded programs,” continued Ortiz y Pino.
In February of 2017, ICE officers conducted raids in Las Cruces, NM after President Trump signed two executive orders signaling his plans to fulfill his campaign promise of cracking down on undocumented immigrants. During that time, news of the raids caused so much fear in the community that Las Cruces public schools saw a sixty-percent spike in student absences. Democrats know that our communities are stronger when our young people can access education without fear for themselves or their families.
From February 26 to March 2, 2018, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents served notices of inspection (NOIs), also known as I-9 audit notices, to approximately 131 businesses across the HSI El Paso area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the state of New Mexico and 18 counties in West Texas. A notice of inspection alerts a business owner that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law. Employers are required to produce their company’s I-9s within three business days, after which ICE will conduct an inspection for compliance.
ICE Deputy Director Tom Homan previously stated that he has directed ICE Homeland Security Investigations to step up worksite enforcement -- to include pursuing more investigations and conducting more I-9 audits.
The actions taken this week reflect ICE’s stepped-up efforts to enforce the laws that prohibit businesses from hiring illegal workers. ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy is focused on protecting jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthening public safety and national security.
Sixty three NOIs were served across the state of New Mexico and 68 NOIs were served in West Texas.
During service of the NOIs, 23 individuals suspected of being in the U.S. illegally were administratively arrested and three of those individuals were also charged with Federal criminal violations related to illegal reentry after deportation and/or possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
The investigations remain ongoing. Any potential criminal charges or other penalties will be coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice.