A group of individuals in neon orange t-shirts stood in the Las Cruces downtown plaza Friday afternoon singing “Olé Olé Olé Olé,” a Mexican chant usually heard at soccer games. This time, however, the singers changed the lyrics. “Olé Olé Olé Olé… Dream Act! Dream Act!”
Las Cruces city councilors unanimously voted Monday to affirm the city’s policy prohibiting police from questioning people about their immigration status unless doing so is necessary in a criminal investigation. A resolution, presented by Police Chief Jaime Montoya and City Attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown, affirmed the city’s current Human Rights ordinance as well as several existing policies of the police department which prohibit law enforcement officers from asking people to show proof of citizenship when responding to a domestic dispute, a traffic violation or other types of interactions with the public. Before voting for the resolution, city councilors focused their questions on policing and enforcement of federal immigration law. “We enforce criminal law, we do not enforce administrative law, which is immigration law,” Montoya explained to Councilor Gabriel Vasquez. Councilor Yvonne Flores questioned Montoya about procedures during routine traffic stops, particularly related to warrants for deportation violations, which she noted are federal felonies.
Martha Lorena Rivera of Alamogordo had been checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2011 to renew a stay of removal she said she’s been given annually for humanitarian reasons. In past years she received approval in the mail, but this year was different. On the morning of Oct. 10, her “world came down,” she said in an interview with New Mexico In Depth. When she presented her application in late September at the El Paso ICE processing center, agents gave her a follow-up appointment for two weeks later.
As Albuquerque heads into a runoff election next week to choose its future mayor, local immigrant and refugee advocates stress that having a positive relationship with Albuquerque’s next mayor is very important to the wellbeing of their communities. New Mexico In Depth spoke with leaders of four nonprofit organizations who work with immigrants and refugees about what’s at stake as the city nears the final vote on who will be its next mayor. A range of issues were mentioned: family unity, worker’s rights and skills development, safety, and breaking down institutional racism perpetuated by city practices and policies. All stressed the need for a mayor who cares about immigrants and refugees. Andrea Plaza, Encuentro and Fabiola Bawden, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos
“The leadership in the city sets the tone for the attitude and approach to working with the immigrant community, and if that tone is a positive one, then the business community can fall in line, the educational community, the health community,” said Andrea Plaza, executive director of Encuentro, an organization that provides education and skill development for immigrants.
Off to the side of Highway 10, somewhere in between Las Cruces and El Paso, Michel Nieves lives in a house with his parents and four siblings. Nieves, 20, and two older siblings have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His 16-year-old sister is awaiting approval. His 5-year-old sister is the only U.S. citizen in the household. Nieves and his two siblings are three of more than 7,000 recipients in New Mexico and up to 800,000 across the nation affected by the Trump administration’s Sept.
Jeff Taborda lives in a faded green trailer in an old, but neatly kept mobile home community in north Las Cruces. Taborda, 23, graduated in December from New Mexico State University with a degree in criminal justice, with ambitions to go into law enforcement and eventually join the FBI. He is lean and muscular, working out regularly with his younger brother, Steven. The home Taborda shares with his girlfriend is sparsely furnished, clean dishes in a rack in the sink. “As soon as I eat, I do the dishes,” he told visitors on a recent 100-degree afternoon.