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February 3, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Today, Somos Un Pueblo Unido and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico released a report detailing state agencies’ disclosure of New Mexicans’ sensitive personal information to the United States Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2019. The findings in the report were garnered from public records requests submitted to numerous state agencies by Somos and the ACLU from July to December of 2019. 

“New Mexicans should be able to access critical state services with full confidence their personal sensitive information will not be disclosed to outside agencies or individuals without strict criteria such as a court order,” said Marcela Díaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “The results of this report demonstrate both an inclination by the administration to protect individuals’ personal information and a lack of clear written policies or guidelines for front line state employees to gauge what to share and with whom. As a result, vulnerable New Mexicans are at risk of having their data fall into the wrong hands.”

The organizations sent public records requests to the New Mexico Department of Health, the New Mexico Human Services Department, the New Mexico Corrections Department’s Probation and Parole Division, the New Mexico Motor Vehicles Division, and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. The resulting records reveal a pattern and practice of state employees handing over New Mexicans’ private data, including immigration status, homeless status, history of mental illness, and information on their family members, with little to no questioning, and without a subpoena or an order from a judge. 

“The overly broad nature of federal agency requests and the swift compliance of state agencies is extremely concerning,” said Steve Allen, director of public policy at the ACLU of New Mexico. “The information we received demonstrates the urgent need to pass legislation that will protect New Mexicans from federal government overreach.”

There have been legislative proposals, including HB 108 during the current session, to amend the Governmental Conduct Act to prohibit state employees from handing over New Mexicans’ social security numbers, national origin, immigration status, LGBTQ status, and other sensitive information to federal agencies unless it is deemed necessary to carry out the function of the state agency or it is required by a court order.  

The Act is meant to assist public employees in understanding their ethical responsibilities as well as the specific prohibitions and limitations that require them to conduct themselves solely in the interest of the public. Safeguarding the sensitive personal information of vulnerable minority groups is squarely within the public interest. 

A copy of the report is available below.

Communications between state employees and DHS employees referenced in the report can be found here.