Donald Trump campaigned on building a wall on our southern border with Mexico. Walling off our neighbors and the nation’s third largest trading partner was never about rational national security policy. It’s about fueling racial and ethnic bias against border communities and immigrants in support of Trump’s vision of expanding mass incarceration in ICE detention facilities and unleashing a “deportation force” of Border Patrol and ICE agents who feel emboldened to racially profile New Mexicans and tear families apart.
At the ACLU of New Mexico, we know our communities are strongest and safest when we honor the contributions and human rights of families who have lived here for generations and newcomers from around the world. Resisting Trump will require we show up for one another and never sacrifice the rights of one group for another.
Getting to work on reforming our immigration system to create a commonsense and generous roadmap to citizenship for DREAMers and their families is a must, but it can’t come at the expense of protecting freedom and fairness guaranteed under the Constitution for the full diversity of New Mexicans. Holding immigration agents accountable to the same 21st century best policing practices that we demand of police departments nationwide must be integral to reforms to ensure the enforcement of our laws reflects our national values and builds trust in communities, the cornerstone of public safety.
Finally, we also need to reclaim the narrative about what a border community is really about. Please see our Regional Center for Border Rights’ guide on how to talk about border communities for tips; and remember, we want our Members to be clear that they won’t give a penny for expanding the border wall, hiring additional ICE or Border Patrol agents, and more immigration detention beds—trading off one for the other is not an option.
Trump’s Deportation Force Unleashed in NM
Already, ICE agents in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos have attempted to shutter access to justice by arresting people in local courts, causing fear that prevents survivors of domestic violence from seeking restraining orders and witnesses from testifying against crimes. In Las Cruces, ICE agents went door-to-door to raid communities in February, resulting in 2,000 students staying home from Las Cruces Public Schools.
And in the shadow of Trump’s wall lurks our nation’s largest police force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of U.S. Border Patrol. Border Patrol’s culture of abuse and excessive force was a direct consequence of congressional funding surges that rapidly hired heavily armed, poorly trained agents who believe they answer to no one — not courts, not Congress, not DHS oversight agencies, and certainly not communities.
On a daily basis, New Mexicans are forced to answer to armed federal agents at checkpoints that Border Patrol operates far into the interior of the country (learn more about your rights in the 100 mile zone here). In practice, these checkpoints serve as the border version of “stop and frisk” policing, where agents racially profile New Mexicans, predominantly U.S. citizens who identify as Hispanic or Latino, who regularly commute through checkpoints to work, attend school, or go to the movies.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s discriminatory and military-style policing resulted in over 50 deaths since January 2010, with no agents yet to face public consequences from courts or DHS. These include cases like that of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca and Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, both unarmed teens shot and killed by Border Patrol agents while standing in Mexico.
Now, Trump has promised to “take the handcuffs off” both ICE and Border Patrol agents, emboldening individual agents to police our neighborhoods without meaningful oversight or accountability.
Block the Money
The good news? Trump can’t carry out his campaign of mass detention and deportation without the help of funding from Congress. The Administration has already requested a dramatic increase in funding on top of already record level spending on immigration enforcement. The United States spends more on immigration enforcement than the FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals and Secret Service combined. Yet, Trump’s 2018 budget request seeks to further bloat enforcement resources in support of his campaign to rule our country by fear. Trump’s budget would:
- Make a $300 million down payment towards amassing a “deportation force” by hiring 1,500 new ICE and Border Patrol agents and under weakened standards for these troubled agencies;
- Line the pockets of private prison companies with $1.5 billion to expand detention of immigrants and asylum seekers with family ties in the United States;
- Expand construction of an un-American border wall that threatens private property rights, tribal lands, and precious habitats for at-risk wildlife, and deploy new surveillance equipment to the tune of $2.5 billion dollars; and
- Seek to commandeer local police officers into supporting Trump’s deportation force by withholding critical funds from local law enforcement.
When Trump requested supplemental funding this spring, communities nationwide united to resist the worst of Trump’s plans. Now is the time to gain commitments from our New Mexico delegation to refuse to give a single penny for an Administration that can’t be trusted.
Our Plan to Win
Engaging our entire congressional delegation is critical. As Chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham has been a vocal advocate for holding the Administration accountable and supporting local efforts to protect sensitive locations like schools from immigration enforcement. While we strongly disagree with Rep. Steve Pearce’s track record on immigration reform and DACA, he has also spoken out against Trump’s wall and co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand oversight and accountability for CBP.
But the reality is that the U.S. Senate is the biggest roadblock to Trump’s agenda. We need Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich to be champions for civil liberties. At the ACLU-NM, our objectives for New Mexico’s congressional delegation include:
- Blocking Trump’s request for funds to build a wall, hire an additional 1,500 ICE and Border Patrol agents, and expand immigrant detention in ICE detention centers or county jails;
- Expanding oversight and accountability mechanisms for ICE and Border Patrol, to include strict prohibitions on racial profiling, training in implicit bias, transparent and accessible complaint investigations, and strong privacy and accountability protections to regulate the use of body-worn cameras; and
- Protecting existing prohibitions on immigration enforcement at sensitive locations that include schools, health centers, community centers and places of worship, and expanding protections for people to access justice in New Mexico courts.
Both Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich have been vocal supporters of reforming our nation’s laws to provide a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants and protect DREAMers and DACA. Since Trump’s election, they’ve been strong critics of his Muslim ban and of proposals to build a wall or coerce local police into supporting Trump’s deportation force. They also demanded ICE respect sensitive locations protections.
Neither Senator, however, has been outspoken on the importance of expanding oversight and accountability for immigration agents, particularly Border Patrol.
In his remarks commemorating May 1st, Senator Heinrich boldly spoke on the importance of reclaiming the narrative about border communities that are vibrant and among the safest cities in the nation. Now’s the time to echo that message and demonstrate our support for political leadership that counters inaccurate portrayals of our communities and creates political will to ensure border agents respect human rights.
What You Can Do:
Make your voice heard:
Our Members of Congress need to hear from you regularly between now and September. See our contact sheet for Senator Udall and Heinrich. Here’s a timeline for how to weigh in over the next four months:
- Write a letter to the editor in your local paper about where you would rather see Congress invest to improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans, rather than building a wall and expanding mass incarceration and discriminatory policing (See ACLU’s take on key cuts that undermine opportunity and justice). If your letter gets published, share it on social media or by email with Senators Udall and Heinrich.
- Email or call your Members of Congress and ask that they co-sponsor The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act (S.845 and H.R.1815). This legislation would strengthen existing policies that prohibit ICE or Border Patrol agents from conducting harmful surveillance or enforcement actions at sensitive community locations. Examples of sensitive locations include our courthouses, schools, healthcare facilities, places of worship, and other important community centers, like domestic violence shelters.
- Host a house party to write letters to your Members of Congress explaining why you feel they should not fund Trump’s Deportation Force, and send those letters to their Washington D.C. offices. Don’t forget to take a picture of your group and tweet or tag the Senators on Facebook.
Members of Congress will be in district
- Look out for a town hall near you and ask your members if they will reject funding to hire new ICE and Border Patrol agents, and instead invest in oversight and accountability for the agents we already have.
Congress will likely hold a vote on the budget
- Call your member of congress and ask 5 friends to call with you. Also, keep an eye on the People Power map and our ACLU-NM social media feeds for actions you can join.
Congressional offices closely track what their constituents communicate to them via email, phone and on social media. If you don’t already, sign up for email alerts from your Congressional members to track town halls. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and engage them in conversation when they weigh in on issues you care about.
When key votes are coming, we’ll send ACLU-NM supporters an alert and tools to take action.
THANK YOU for everything you’re doing to protect border communities and immigrant families in New Mexico!
If you need more information or are interested in participating in any of the opportunities described above, please contact Ana Moran in Albuquerque at (505) 266-5915 ext. 1012, firstname.lastname@example.org or Cynthia Pompa in the Regional Center for Border Rights of Las Cruces at (575) 527-0664, email@example.com.