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Immigrant groups want tax policy on hold pending lawsuits

SANTA FE – Immigrants’ rights groups that sued the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez a year ago alleging it was wrongfully withholding tax refunds from some immigrants are asking a judge to order the policy halted while the lawsuits work their way through court.

The groups last week requested an injunction in state 1st Judicial District Court against the Taxation and Revenue Department, which they claim continues to illegally withhold money from some immigrant tax filers.

“New Mexico’s immigrant workers cannot afford to wait for a final court decision,” Marisa Bono of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a statement announcing the injunction request.

“State officials should not be allowed to continue targeting immigrant families while our clients argue their full case before the court,” she said.

MALDEF, along with an Albuquerque law firm and Santa Fe-based Somos Un Pueblo Unido, claims the department since 2012 has had an “arbitrary policy” of denying tax refunds to immigrants who file personal income tax returns using federal Individual Tax Identification Numbers, or ITINs.

According to two lawsuits filed last year, the plaintiffs got tax refunds for years prior to 2012 using ITINs on their returns.

ITINs are issued to people who are not U.S. citizens or nationals – and not eligible for Social Security numbers – including undocumented immigrants and other foreign nationals.

The groups say the ITIN filers get letters from the state citing “discrepancies” on their returns and requiring supporting documents, which they contend is going beyond what the law allows.

Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla said when the lawsuits were filed in 2015 that they were “a bogus political charade.” She said returns are flagged when they are accompanied by W-2 forms with fraudulent Social Security numbers.

Asked for comment on the request for an injunction, department spokesman Ben Cloutier said: “They’re asking us to turn a blind eye when illegal immigrants seek tax refunds using tax returns with fraudulent Social Security numbers. That’s absurd, and we’re confident the court will agree.”

The immigrant advocacy groups say there is no evidence the filers are engaging in tax fraud. They say refunds have been withheld in cases in which immigrants have consistently used their ITINs on all documents and there is no discrepancy involving Social Security numbers.

The injunction request is pending before state District Judge David Thomson.

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