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. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.
In July, a sweltering tractor trailer ride in Texas became the latest harrowing example of the perils of crossing the U.S. border illegally. From the hospital, one survivor told authorities that he had paid smugglers to get him across the Rio Grande and then cram him on a northbound truck with what he guessed were nearly 100 people. The survivor managed to keep breathing in the pitch black trailer without food or water. But when the doors were opened in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot, eight migrants were dead, their bodies “lying on the floor like meat,” the truck’s driver subsequently said. Another two expired later.
Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has targeted immigrants to the United States. He attempted to ban on refugees from certain countries, continues to lobby Congress to fund a border wall and most recently, flip flopped on whether or not to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Known by its acronym, DACA, the program protects those who were brought to the United States without document while they were children from deportation. Trump’s administration announced earlier in September that he would end the Obama-era program, and now the people who had signed up under DACA are facing uncertain futures. And now advocates nationwide are working to blunt the impacts of the delayed end to the program.
This summer, a Kansas City man named Edwin got a call from immigration officials. They had picked up his nephew at the southern border and wanted to release the teen into his care. So Edwin went online and bought a bed. Later that week, he was contacted again, this time by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detective who knocked at his door. The agent gave Edwin a letter saying he needed to come to headquarters for an interview about three federal crimes: conspiracy, visa fraud and human smuggling.
New Mexico’s top law enforcement officer joined 15 other attorneys general in suing the federal government to stop the Trump administration from deporting people whose parents brought them to the country illegally as children. New Mexico Attorney General was among those who opposed President Donald Trump’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by a Barack Obama executive order, in six months. Those who remain in the country under the status can stay until their waives expire and the renewals typically last two years. After six months, the administration would no longer accept new renewals and those whose status expired would be subject to removal from the country. The lawsuit says the Trump decision, announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week, discriminates against DACA recipients and harms states and their economies.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Anticipating a repeal, walk-outs were scheduled and high schools and colleges around the state. Thousands of students walked out of classrooms, and in Albuquerque people of many ages showed up on Civic Plaza. At Highland High School in the southeast part of Albuquerque, about one hundred students left classes and walked to Central Avenue. Later in the day, several hundred people marched on Civic Plaza and watched indigenous dances and heard from people who would be directly affected by the DACA repeal.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday morning sent a clear message to members of Houston’s immigrant community who might fear seeking help during Hurricane Harvey because of their legal status. “There is absolutely no reason why anyone should not call [for help]. And I and others will be the first ones to stand up with you,” Turner, an attorney, said to reporters. “If someone comes and they require help and then for some reason [someone] tries to deport them, I will represent them myself.”
Turner responded directly to a question about Senate Bill 4, the state’s immigration-enforcement law that seeks to outlaw “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law in May and it is scheduled to go into effect Friday.
The Bernalillo County Commission reiterated its commitment to being an immigrant-friendly community. On Tuesday night, commissioners voted 4-1 against a provision that would have rolled back that status. County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican who is running for Albuquerque mayor, introduced a proposal to bring the county in alignment with the federal government’s current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally. “There is nothing in this resolution that directs or even implies that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department should be enforcing federal immigration law,” Johnson said. “Everything in this resolution puts the burden on the Department of Homeland Security and on Immigration and Customs. It allows access to detainees, identified by the DHS, and it allows notification when those identified detainees will be released 48 hours prior and then it would allow, in the very specific condition, for us to hold someone for 48 hours if the Department of Homeland Security agrees to indemnify the county against liability.”
Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.
The Department of Justice says for the city of Albuquerque to qualify for a partnership to combat violent crime, the city will have to comply with efforts federal immigration enforcement for immigrants who are detained. To qualify for the cooperation and funding, the DOJ says Albuquerque, and three other cities, must answer questions on how the city cooperates with federal authorities on immigration
“By protecting criminals from immigration enforcement, cities and states with so-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “We saw that just last week, when an illegal alien who had been deported twenty times and was wanted by immigration authorities allegedly sexually assaulted an elderly woman in Portland, a city that refuses to cooperate with immigration enforcement.”
The term “sanctuary-city” does not have a specific definition, but the term is usually used to refer to municipalities that don’t fully cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on enforcing federal immigration laws. The federal program in question is the Public Safety Partnership, announced in June by the DOJ. The City of Albuquerque currently does not use city resources to help federal authorities apprehend or identify undocumented immigrants unless otherwise required by law.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin constructing the first segment of President Trump’s border wall in November through a national wildlife refuge, using money it’s already received from Congress. That’s what a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official recently told a nonprofit group that raises money to support two national wildlife refuges in South Texas, according to the group’s vice president. “I was alarmed,” said Jim Chapman of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor. “It was not good news.” For the past six months, CBP has been quietly preparing a site to build a nearly 3-mile border barrier through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Texas Observer.