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Stricter rules sought for ICE agents in New Mexico

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A group of immigrant advocates is asking the state Supreme Court to make it more difficult for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to detain people who are in the country illegally in and around New Mexico courthouses.

The ACLU and others circulated a petition among the state’s attorneys, retired judges, law firms and other organizations, seeking new rules that would raise the bar for arrest and would offer some protections to immigrants.

The groups contend in the petition that there have been at least 25 cases since February 2017 in which ICE agents in plain clothes targeted or arrested people “in and around” state courthouses. The petition also says five people were targeted by ICE agents inside the Metropolitan Court in Albuquerque since late July 2018.

It did not cite specific examples.

In some instances, the agents got assistance from court staff and security who were there to make court appearances, according to the petition.

The groups plan to announce the results of the petition drive at a news conference today. Representatives of the ACLU, the Law Office of the Public Defender, the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center are expected to attend.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to adopt a rule that would require an ICE agent to have a judicial warrant signed by a judge when arresting someone in or near a New Mexico courthouse, as opposed to an administrative warrant, which is not signed by a judge.

The petition also asks for a rule that would allow a court to issue writs of protection for individuals who fear they may be subject to civil detention at or near a courthouse.

Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the Supreme Court has not issued a formal order regarding federal immigration enforcement in New Mexico courthouses.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Texas did not return a phone message asking what the agency’s policies are when it comes to arresting people who are making court appearances.

ICE’s website says the agency’s policies governing courthouse arrests are similar to those of other law enforcement agencies.

It also says that it will not target undocumented immigrants “indiscriminately.” ICE will target only specific individuals who have criminal convictions, previous deportations or are known gang members or public safety threats, according to the website.

“Courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails,” the website says.

The petition contends that many of the 25 detainees were facing traffic citations or DWIs.