Saturday, May 22, 2010
Denish Denies Role in CYFD Policy
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said through a spokesman Friday that she never knew about a New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department policy against reporting any juvenile criminals to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Until 2006, CYFD was supposed to report illegal immigrants under its care to ICE officials. That policy was suspended in 2006 at the direction of then-Secretary Mary-Dale Bolson, and juveniles were no longer reported until Gov. Bill Richardson partly reinstated immigration reporting earlier this week.
Any immigration policy, for any state agency, would have to follow federal and state regulations before Denish, the lone Democratic ballot candidate for governor in the June 1 primary election, could support it, Denish campaign spokesman Chris Cervini said in a written statement.
"That said, Diane is focused on the future and as governor would call for a thorough review of these types of staff directives to ensure that immigration laws and administrative codes are followed to the letter," Cervini said.
Richardson earlier this week instructed CYFD staff to begin reporting violent juvenile offenders to ICE after Mexican national Juan Gonzalez, 20, was arrested May 4 and accused of criminal sexual penetration of a 6-year-old girl.
Gonzalez had been accused of sex crimes in 2005 when he was still a juvenile. Officials at CYFD knew he was in the country illegally but did not report him to ICE.
Gonzalez was found not competent to stand trial in 2005.
In an opinion column submitted to the Journal, former Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and former New Mexico Attorney General Hal Stratton, also a Republican, questioned whether Denish — who heads the New Mexico Children's Cabinet — was involved in the 2006 decision against reporting juveniles.
Cervini said Denish was never involved in the decision, didn't know it had happened and would not have supported it because it did not follow state and federal regulations.
The Children's Cabinet is not involved with juvenile offender immigration policy, Cervini said.
"The Children's Cabinet's policy focuses have been on expanding access to early childhood education, home-visiting programs and school-based health centers, and frankly has not dealt with immigration policy at the departmental level," Cervini said.