Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Gov. to CYFD: Report Aliens to ICE
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Gov. Bill Richardson on Monday told the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department to start reporting violent juvenile criminals who are foreign nationals to immigration authorities.
CYFD has not been reporting them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since 2006, when Mary-Dale Bolson, then secretary of CYFD, suspended a state regulation requiring CYFD to do so, CYFD spokeswoman Romaine Serna said Monday.
But that regulation, which required CYFD to report all foreign nationals entering its system, was in place when Juan Gonzalez, a Mexican national who's now 20 years old, was accused in 2005 of raping a 6-year-old boy and molesting a 3-year-old girl. Those charges against him were dropped when it was determined he was not competent to stand trial.
Serna said CYFD knew Gonzalez was in the country illegally at the time, but records did not show whether ICE was contacted.
Last week ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said ICE was not notified about Gonzalez in 2005.
Serna said the governor's directive to start reporting those accused of violent offenses, which includes youths accused of sex crimes, came about because of the recent case in which Gonzalez is accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl at an Albuquerque gym.
Zamarripa said ICE would appreciate being informed of juvenile criminals who are in the country illegally.
"That way ICE would be able to document those cases of juveniles that, for example, have a criminal record. It would help us identify criminal aliens," she said Monday.
She noted that juveniles can be deported for the same reasons as adults.
Gonzalez will face deportation proceedings when his most recent case is concluded, Zamarripa said.
Serna said Bolson's decision in 2006 to suspend the state regulation requiring notification of ICE was made in an effort to provide services to everyone in its care.
"CYFD believed that it was our duty to provide rehabilitative services to youth regardless of their immigration status," Serna said.
She said there were no public hearings on suspending the regulation, because CYFD lawyers determined the cabinet secretary had the authority to make changes without them.
"But I think that for the Children, Youth and Families Department, the message here is that it's always more prudent to take advantage of the opportunity for public comment. And that's what we will do as we proceed in any kind of rule change or policy changes that will have effects on the community," Serna said.
Serna said CYFD doesn't have clear procedures to determine the immigration status of juveniles who enter its system.
"That is an area of policy and practice that we will immediately begin to clarify and define so that it's clear to everyone involved," she said.
Serna said the CYFD staff will implement the governor's directive immediately.