At the bottom of a subpoena from Immigration and Customs Enforcement given to a Santa Fe business demanding proof of employees' authorization to work is a name: Special Agent Patrick Werick.
Underneath that, the subpoena requests that its recipient not "disclose the existence of this subpoena for an indefinite period of time" because such exposure could allegedly "interfere with the enforcement of federal law."
But reached by telephone, Werick, who has worked out of ICE's Albuquerque office since 2011, doesn't appear perturbed by questions about his work. Instead, the former New Mexico State Police officer readily confirms in an interview with SFR that he is the special agent from ICE's Homeland Security Investigations unit who initiated at least two workplace audits in Santa Fe during the past six weeks or so.
An immigration attorney described the audits in an SFR cover story thusly: They present ICE with an opportunity to "deputize every employer in the US to enforce immigration law."
Werick was tight-lipped about what other operations ICE's HSI division conducts in New Mexico.
"HSI is the law enforement arm of DHS, so we do a wide variety of enforcement actions," he tells SFR. "We do a wide variety of criminal investigations [into] any individual that violates federal criminal law."
DHS has been on a hiring spree around the country. In January, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the department's intention of hiring "10,000 more ICE officers and agents" to step up the Trump administration's deportation efforts.
But Werick says he hasn't seen a surge in personnel at ICE's Albuquerque headquarters, which is under the jurisdiction of the agency's El Paso field office. The Albuquerque suboffice on Watson Drive in the southeast part of the city houses both HSI and a division called Enforcement and Removal Operations. In late January, DHS posted a solicitation for a private vendor to assist the department in hiring 16,000 new employees—about half would be deportation officers for the ERO division.
Werick hitched up with State Police in 1994, eventually ascending to the rank of major and receiving certifications to instruct other officers in firearms, crowd control, SWAT and other areas. He lost a bid to be police chief in 2011, and later that year retired from the department and started working in the ERO division in Albuquerque.
Werick says he has conducted a total of three worksite visits on behalf of ICE this year. As an HSI officer, he has the power to arrest people if they're suspected of committing a federal criminal felony.
Whether being in the country without citizenship is a crime in and of itself remains a legally murky issue—but it is considered, at a minimum, a civil violation and can result in detainment by ERO officers. But sometimes, the duties of HSI and ERO overlap, such as when an undocumented person commits a crime like identity theft or illegal entry into the country.
"A lot of times when [HSI] come across a criminal case, we show it to the US Attorney's Office, and they make a determination of whether it warrants federal criminal charges," Werick tells SFR. "If we find someone with a warrant or an outstanding warrant, [and if] they committed a federal felony in our presence or we have reason to believe they committed a federal felony, we do have arrest authority."
According to Mike Francis, a spokesman for the New Mexico State Police Brotherhood Association, which hosts a gathering for current and retired officers once a year, it's difficult for retired police to get hired by ICE because the federal agency does not take people older than 37.
However, an agency brochure from 2011 says it will sometimes waive the age requirement for "preference-eligible veterans." Werick would have been 44 or 45 when he was hired by ICE in 2011, but he's also a US Navy veteran.
When he transferred over to HSI from ERO in 2016, Werick again had the authority to enforce criminal law. Days before he began his current job in August 2016, he wrote in a Facebook post, "Back in the game. It's still in my blood!"