WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich spoke with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan to express the deep concerns of New Mexico communities. The senators demanded answers about ICE deportation measures in the wake of President Trump’s immigration executive orders, and sought assurances that New Mexicans can continue to receive health care and other essential services without fear of deportation. The senators also called on Homan to ensure that ICE focuses its limited resources on apprehending and deporting violent criminals, instead of innocent people who pose no threat to their communities or our nation, and secured a commitment that ICE will hold community engagement meetings with stakeholders in New Mexico.
Udall and Heinrich have received many troubling reports from New Mexicans who say they are afraid to report crimes, and seek health care or services at schools, churches, and hospitals due to accounts that ICE is conducting enforcement operations at these locations. The problem is further exacerbated by ICE agents identifying themselves as police when they knock on doors – potentially leading some residents to be fearful to open the door to local police during an emergency and jeopardizing access to emergency services.
The senators pressed Homan to commit that ICE will not conduct enforcement operations at locations like elementary schools where parents are dropping off their children, health care centers that provide vital services to the community or staking out places of worship. Homan pledged to the senators that ICE will not conduct such operations at sensitive locations, provided that ICE determines that there is no urgent national security threat.
In addition, the senators secured a commitment from Homan that ICE will increase community engagement and meet with local leaders and advocacy groups in New Mexico. Since the rollout of the Trump Administration’s executive orders on immigration, advocacy groups have been calling on ICE to meet with them to provide more clarity and address their concerns.
“I’ve heard from too many New Mexicans who say that their communities are overcome with fear thanks to President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. People are missing doctor appointments, refraining from going to their places of worship, and holding their kids out of school because of what they have heard and seen about ICE deportation enforcement operations. Senator Heinrich and I received an important commitment from Director Homan in our conversation: he pledged to us that ICE will not conduct enforcement operations at places where people are receiving essential care or services. We intend to use every tool at our disposal to hold Director Homan accountable to that promise,” said Udall. “As I told Director Homan, ICE should focus its limited resources on targeting dangerous and violent criminals – not innocent people who have built a life in this country and who are an essential part of the fabric of their communities. I am concerned that Director Homan confirmed that ICE’s ‘pool of targets’ has expanded under the new administration, and I believe we need far more information from ICE and the administration about who is being targeted for deportation. I also am requesting follow-up assurances from Director Homan that ICE will not seek information from the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division’s database of driver authorization cards – which are issued to undocumented immigrants – or any other state databases to identify people.”
“While we still have outstanding questions and concerns, I am working to hold ICE accountable on their commitment to us to meet with community leaders and not target sensitive locations or DREAMers,” said Heinrich, who introduced the Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act earlier this year. “I raised my serious concerns with Director Homan about recent cases targeting DREAMers. These individuals came forward based on the promise that our government would not deport them and provided personal information about themselves and their families. To use this against them is an extraordinary breach of trust by our government, and we must work to hold agencies like ICE accountable. ICE should focus on using its limited resources to target violent criminals, not DREAMers.”
In response to Homan’s commitment, Udall and Heinrich are asking New Mexicans to contact their Senate offices if they have reports of ICE agents conducting enforcement operations at locations where people receive essential care or services, such as schools, churches, and hospitals. The senators plan to hold Homan accountable to his promise by demanding that he answer for any reports of ICE wrongdoing.
Udall and Heinrich sent a letter to Homan on February 17, 2017 demanding a meeting and answers from immigration officials about whether the agency has made changes in response to President Trump’s immigration executive orders. The letter can be found here.
Contact information for Udall and Heinrich’s offices can be found below: