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New Mexico civil rights leaders criticize ICE policies

The Trump administration's crackdown on immigration shows no end in sight. In the past several weeks, it seems only to have strengthened. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has been given the green light to hold detainees indefinitely; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sued the state of California for its immigrant-friendly "sanctuary" policies; and the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains in limbo.

In the face of this, several New Mexico leaders are speaking out against what they say are important civil rights violations. At Santa Fe City Hall on Monday, a group of local leaders, business owners and workers' rights advocates voiced their concerns about the effect of the current administration's immigration policies on Santa Fe businesses and employees.

Targeting local businesses

ICE raids have been targeting local businesses and their employees according to several speakers at a City Hall meeting. The immigration agency has repeatedly shown up to at least six Santa Fe businesses with I-9 audit forms, demanding that employers verify their employees' authorization to work in the United States. The speakers testified that the on-the-spot audits caused fear, intimidation and confusion for business owners, employees and customers.

Protecting workers

Immigration advocates present at the City Hall gathering say that ICE's audits and raids frequently violate workers' civil rights. Although ICE ostensibly uses I-9 audits to check on businesses' compliance with federal laws, critics say that the agency often uses these inspections to badger local immigrants. The New Mexico-based civil rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido says that I-9 audits can result in employees losing their jobs, being interrogated or detained and even being deported. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales encouraged attendees to learn their rights regarding immigration audits. He also reiterated Santa Fe's devotion to its standing as a Sanctuary City.

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