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DOJ: ‘Criminal aliens’ protected by BernCo

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday accused Bernalillo County of refusing to share information about immigration enforcement, and a senator from New Mexico wrote to the Department of Homeland Security asking it to reconsider rejecting DACA applicants whose extension requests were submitted on time but delayed in the U.S. mail.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., flanked by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., join a group of Republican lawmakers to encourage support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

At least a dozen of those applying for renewal of their legal immigration status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are from the Las Cruces-El Paso area, according to the office of Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a warning to 29 local governments around the country Wednesday, including Bernalillo County, saying their status as “sanctuary cities” means that they “view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law.” If found in violation of the statute, the cities and counties could risk losing Justice Department grants.

“I urge all jurisdictions found to be potentially out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents” Sessions wrote in part.

The ongoing dispute stems in large part from the refusal of local jurisdictions to detain arrestees who are foreign nationals until ICE agents can deport them. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and other city officials around New Mexico and parts of the U.S. contend it is the federal government’s responsibility to detain and deport those who are in the country illegally.

Meanwhile, Heinrich wrote to DHS on Wednesday asking it to reverse its rejection of applications from so-called Dreamers seeking to renew their legal immigration status by an Oct. 5 deadline.

The U.S. Postal Service conceded that there had been an “unintentional temporary mail processing delay in the Chicago area” that delayed applications, even those that had been mailed weeks in advance. But U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has refused to accept the delayed paperwork.

“Although the Postal Service has acknowledged that a mail processing delay affected some unknown number of DACA renewal applications, the Department still refuses to accept those applications,” Heinrich and other Democratic senators, including Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, wrote to DHS. “We encourage you to weigh the life-changing consequences many will face in the absence of action by the Department.”

The White House and Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.

Parya, left, and Elmira, right, both Ph. D. students at the University of New Mexico, talk about how Trump’s executive order on immigration has affected them. (Jim Thompson/Journal)