Last week, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement reportedly detained several people in Santa Fe and initiated audits against at least six businesses for the purpose of learning whether they employ people who are not legally eligible to work in the United States.
Members of Santa Fe's immigrant advocacy group Somos un Pueblo Unido stood alongside Mayor Javier Gonzales, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia and other labor and employer representatives during a press conference Monday. The gathering was intended to confirm ICE's recent sweep through the city and display a united front against the Trump Administration's crackdown on immigrants throughout the country.
"We know at least six businesses that were targeted with I-9 audits; and, separately, since ICE was here for the week, several immigrants were detained in their homes, the local probation office, outside the courthouse, at least one person that was reported [to have been] picked up outside the parking lot of the [magistrate] courthouse, and in some cases outside workplaces," said Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos.
Diaz said ICE agents also visited a restaurant in the city and took photographs outside and inside of the business. Citing concerns about the ongoing audits and targeted enforcement by ICE, Diaz said she would not name people or businesses directly affected.
Gonzales said nobody from the federal government had been in contact with city officials prior to, during, or after ICE's actions in the city. ICE, he alleged, intended to "disrupt and hurt and harm people in our community living peacefully."
Gonzales, for whom this week is his last as mayor, said the city would submit a letter to New Mexico's Congressional delegation to find out how many families and businesses have been targeted by ICE actions in Santa Fe.
Of all the speakers at the gathering, Superintendent Garcia had the strongest words of condemnation for the sweep, comparing it to the terror experienced by students fearful of mass school shootings.
"Now we have added another layer of worry and insecurity [for] our children, and it pains me to know that our families not only have a fear of security but now that their father and mother lose their jobs or have lost their jobs, they may find themselves homeless, find themselves with food insecurity, and that's just wrong," Garcia said.
Claudia Lopez, a member of Somos un Pueblo Unido, urged any businesses audited by ICE to provide the agency with the bare minimum information required under the law.
"We hope that employers will not grant interviews to ICE of employees, nor give them permission to enter private places of work," Lopez said in Spanish through a translator, "and immediately notify employees about the results of these audits."
While details about enforcement actions in Santa Fe are limited, they come after ICE acting director Thomas Homan announced in December that he wanted to see a 400 percent increase in "worksite operations" by ICE officials, to include audits as well as the detention of undocumented workers and potential prosecution of employers who knowingly hire undocumented people.
ICE's actions in Santa Fe and in other New Mexico cities, including Taos and Albuquerque, are similar to the audits and detentions that have taken place in Northern California over the last month. Homan has said he supports federal criminal charges for local politicians in self-declared sanctuary cities, but the Department of Justice has not signaled its willingness to go to such an extreme measure in the interest of another federal agency.
Santa Fe passed a resolution last February strengthening its sanctuary city position, including provisions to prohibit the city government itself from enrolling in "E-Verify," a federal program that crosschecks employee information with Department of Homeland Security databases. The resolution also mandated the city become more accessible for people who prefer speaking a language other than English, and that city officials not inquire into the legal status of certain individuals or share sensitive information of Santafesinos with outside agencies in most cases.
Gonzales acknowledged that even with this resolution, the city wasn't immune to immigration sweeps.
"[What] we can't do under our welcoming policies is fully protect you when there are raids that take place," Gonzales said, "so it's important you take the time to get educated to know what your rights are."
Two upcoming trainings are planned for people and businesses interested in learning more about the auditing, known officially as I-9 audits.
Wednesday, March 7, the Green Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Santa Fe Homebuilders' will host an educational session from 2 to 4 pm at their office on 2520 Camino Entrada. RSVP by calling 982-1774.
At 7 pm on Friday, March 9, inside the San Isidro Catholic Church at 3552 Agua Fria St., organizers will give a workshop for what to do if you are approached by ICE agents.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that ICE reportedly detained several people and audited at least six businesses.