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Senators: ICE using misleading tactics on state immigrant groups

New Mexico’s U.S. senators Tom Udall, left, and Martin Heinrich.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich claim U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using misleading tactics and campaigns against immigrant communities in the state.

The two Democrats sent a letter to Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence on Thursday voicing their concerns.

“We have received troubling reports from New Mexican residents that ICE officers are gaining access into homes under false pretenses by using fear and lies,” the senators wrote. “We have also heard disturbing accounts of ICE officers demanding that residents open their doors and/or allow ICE to search their home based on ICE’s administrative, not judicial warrants.”

A spokesman from Heinrich’s office said the reports were primarily from local immigrant advocacy groups, including El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, which held a rally at its office Thursday denouncing the tactics it claimed ICE was using.

The senators said ICE officers are identifying themselves as police and wearing deceptive uniforms to appear as local police when they knock on doors, a behavior they said discourages migrants from calling for help when they are victims of a crime.

“When federal immigration officials misidentify as police, the relationship between the immigrant community and local law enforcement agencies is damaged,” the senators wrote.

Heinrich and Udall said they received reports that ICE is expanding enforcement activities in Albuquerque, targeting immigrant workers and families at home, at work, and after dropping their children off at school, a practice they said ran contrary to established department policy on enforcement at or near certain community locations.

“This is causing residents to no longer feel safe in their own neighborhoods,” they said.

They encouraged Albence to have ICE officials meet with local residents and their offices to discuss a path forward.

“Instead of targeting families, ICE should prioritize its enforcement efforts on actual risks to public safety and national security. We believe a productive discussion between ICE, the New Mexico delegation, and key stakeholders is critical in gaining transparency and restoring trust back into our communities,” the senators wrote.

Efforts to reach local ICE officials were unsuccessful. But in a previous inquiry by the Journal, Albence said in jurisdictions where ICE is not allowed to assume custody of illegal immigrants from jails, “our officers are forced to make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities.”

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