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Buckman Project Laborer Placed On Immigration Detainer After Fight At Construction Site

March 19, 2010, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
There was a fight yesterday at 341 Caja Del Rio Road, which happens to be the site of the Buckman Direct Diversion Water Treatment Plant. It got pretty ugly, apparently.

From the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office:
During the altercation the suspect armed himself with a screwdriver and stabbed the [24-year-old] victim on the arm and torso. Victim sustained minor non-life threatening injuries and signed a medical refusal with Santa Fe City Med 4. Suspect was located at the scene and was arrested, transported and booked into the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center.

That's the suspect, pictured: Alejandro Romero-Hernandez, age 37. The county jail's website says he's being held on aggravated battery and an immigration detainer from US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Why are immigration officials interested in a laborer at one of the largest public works projects in the state? This is where it gets interesting.

According to Officer Stephen Orr's report (excerpted below), Romero-Hernandez worked for major Buckman contractor Western Summit, as did the victim of his attack, whose name SFR has redacted because we are uncertain of his immigration status.

Rick Carpenter, the city of Santa Fe's Buckman project director, did not immediately return a cell phone message asking for comment.

In 2008, a joint venture of Western Summit and CH2M Hill was awarded a $181 million design-build contract by the Buckman Direct Diversion Board.

The water project is mostly publicly financed and, although its federal stimulus application was denied last year, a recent New Mexico Recovery and Reinvestment Office report (PDF) shows a relatively modest $141,000 stimulus allocation for modification of the electrical system at the Buckman site, funneled through the City of Santa Fe.

The Buckman project was supposed to create "more than 500 jobs per year" with an estimated $93 million in new "labor income." It now appears that at least one of those jobs—and an unknown amount of public money, paid for in part by increases in water rates—might have gone to an undocumented immigrant laborer.

Although it is often a first step toward deportation, the ICE detainer on Romero-Hernandez does not necessarily mean he is living in the country without the right papers. From the liberal-leaning Immigration Policy Center:
Not everyone placed under detainer is “illegal.” Immigration detainers are not limited to unauthorized immigrants.  Legal immigrants—including long-term legal permanent residents (LPRs, or green card holders) may also be subject to immigration detainers if ICE determines they may be deportable. Immigration law provides that LPRs and other legal visa holders may be deportable for minor violations and misdemeanors, and non-citizens may even be deported retroactively for past criminal convictions. ... Finally, ICE could erroneously issue a detainer for a U.S. citizen if there is an error in its database or if the individual's name is similar to someone else who is in the database.

SFR left messages with Sheriff Greg Solano and Undersheriff Robert Garcia asking for more details on why the ICE detainer was placed on Romero-Hernandez.

Update 1:30 pm March 19: "I have no idea who would do that," Undersheriff Garcia tells SFR, "because it's our policy not to call ICE."

Read an excerpt from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Report below:



(Click the image to enlarge.)


Note that while the victim was observed with apparent puncture wounds, Romero-Hernandez denied stabbing him with a screwdriver.

 

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