Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
WASHINGTON – Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Monday she’s worried that recent immigration raids by federal agents could mark the start of mass deportations nationwide, and she will meet with the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement today to voice her concerns and learn more about the agency’s plans.
Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who is chairwoman of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, is set to meet with ICE acting Director Thomas Homan after hundreds of arrests and deportations in multiple states over the past two weeks.
While ICE officials say the raids are targeting criminals, Lujan Grisham said she knows others have been swept up and deported.
“I want to see exactly who was picked up with the deportation orders they said they had in hand that meets the felony criminal deportation priority list,” Lujan Grisham said in a Journal interview Monday. “What they are saying to us is that they are just working on removing felons … but that’s not matching up with the information we’re getting from individuals and immigration lawyers and advocacy organizations.
“I know they’ve done collateral apprehensions, which has nothing to do with any targeted efforts, so I’m really concerned,” she said.
There have been no reports of mass deportations in New Mexico since President Donald Trump took office.
Trump vowed during the 2016 campaign to deport an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, but ICE officials said Monday that they are targeting only those immigrants with criminal convictions.
Lujan Grisham and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to Homan on Friday requesting a meeting. He agreed, and the meeting was scheduled for today.
“Trump has said – and I think he’s serious – that he wants 11 million people deported,” Lujan Grisham said. “Is this the initiation of mass deportation? I don’t have the information yet to assess it, but I’m concerned enough that we want as much data as quickly as we can so we can ascertain what’s going on.”
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday that the ICE raids are “routine.”
“ICE conducts these kind of targeted enforcement operations regularly and has for many years,” Kelly said in a statement. “The focus of these enforcement operations is consistent with the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations teams on a daily basis.”
“These operations targeted public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally re-entered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges,” the statement said.
ICE reported Monday that officers in the Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, Texas, and New York City regions arrested more than 680 people “who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”
Of those arrested, “approximately 75 percent” were criminals convicted of crimes including homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, drug trafficking, weapons charges and other crimes.
Lujan Grisham stressed that she has no problem with federal agents arresting and deporting those who have been convicted of serious crimes who remain in the country illegally, but she worried about “collateral” deportations of those who pose no threat.
Under President Barack Obama, the government claimed it was focused on immigrants who are in the country illegally who posed a threat to national security or public safety and recent bordercrossers.
More than 2 million people were deported during Obama’s time in office, including a record of more than 409,000 people in 2012. At one point, his critics dubbed him the “deporter in chief.”
Although there have been no reports of wide-scale immigration raids in New Mexico since Trump took office, some families and communities have been on edge since Trump’s inauguration.
“So far, we are not seeing massive raids, but there is a lot of fear,” said Fernando Garcia of the Border Network for Human Rights, representing West Texas and southern New Mexico.
Immigrant advocates in southern New Mexico say that communities reported possible raids at least twice since late January, both of which turned out to be false alarms.
Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero told the Journal in late January that in one instance, seasoned agents were showing new agents the area and met up with Anthony police to look at areas of criminal concern. The group sparked alarm in Anthony, where many fam ilies are of mixed immigration status.
Journal staff writer Lauren Villagran contributed to this report.