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Editorial: NM is right not to give ICE an assist in targeting workers

Considering the drama on our southern border, don’t U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have enough to do?

With a “Most Wanted List” featuring baddies like former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and his cohort Samark Jose Lopez Bello (wanted for alleged international drug trafficking and money laundering); alleged murderer and MS-13 member Jose Orlando Gonzalez Medina; and suspected human trafficker Mario Antunez-Sotelo, it seems like they should.

No, not every ICE agent can spend every minute hunting down Most Wanted poster boys, but news Aug. 9 that the immigration agency was spending its time asking the New Mexico government to hand over worker and employer records was a little baffling.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley – who was appointed to his post by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham – stopped ICE, er, cold.

It was the right move.

It’s one thing when jails cooperate with ICE. The Journal Editorial Board in the past has defended jails’ rights to give ICE agents access to their data, supporting the position it’s not fair to ask local law enforcement officers to rebuff federal agents regarding undocumented immigrants picked up on violent crime or drug trafficking charges.

But when ICE comes knocking for state workforce records? How is that in the interest of public safety? The public knows exactly one thing for sure about any immigrant who shows up on ICE’s radar as a result of those records: They have a job.

It’s worth noting that, despite its agents being in the eye of an emotionally fraught storm growing even stronger since President Donald Trump took office, ICE is a valuable agency that serves an important function. Its agents are often heavily involved in investigations of human and sex traffickers, drug smugglers and other types of dangerous criminals.

But ICE, like all law enforcement agencies, has finite resources. And ICE leaders, like all law enforcement officers, have to prioritize when it comes to doling out those resources. One would hope that, for the good of the country, ICE’s task of protecting the public would rise to the top of the priority list. The political milieu notwithstanding, it defies credulity that that includes hunting down folks in the service, maintenance, agricultural and construction sectors, to name a few. ICE leaders should keep their eye on the prize, those individuals who present a threat to public safety.

In a perfect world, the U.S. would have no people living in the shadows. Pathways to citizenship would be clearly marked, and work permits would abound, with easy-to-understand rules and clear regulations. Children wouldn’t be penalized for their parents’ actions, and immigrants would be free to pursue happiness and help grow the economy.

It’s incumbent on members of Congress to make as much of that dream a reality as possible.

In the meantime, ICE isn’t helping anybody by squandering its precious resources going after people who are just trying to make a living. McCamley and Lujan Grisham should stand their ground, if for no other reason than to remind ICE that its focus should stay fixed on apprehending dangerous criminals – not the working class.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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