POLITICS

New Mexico Refused To Give ICE Employment Records, Won't Let Trump 'Destroy Families'

The request came as the immigration enforcement agency prepared a mass raid in Mississippi.

New Mexico denied U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests for the state’s employment records, including records on residents receiving unemployment benefits, the state’s workforce director said. 

The workforce system ICE wanted to access includes the names, addresses and financial information of practically every working and unemployed person in the state, Bill McCamley, secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions, told HuffPost. 

“This governor is not going to participate in the Trump administration’s efforts to destroy families,” McCamley added.

The development highlights the growing politicization of ICE operations as Democratic-led jurisdictions refuse to cooperate with what they view as increasingly indiscriminate deportation efforts under President Donald Trump. ICE had largely abandoned large-scale worksite raids in 2008, but the Trump administration has revived them, carrying out the largest single-state operation in the agency’s history this week in Mississippi. 

“It’s not a secret the information that ICE is asking for will be used for those sorts of things,” McCamley said in reference to the Mississippi raids.

“It’s bad for families, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for businesses, it’s just bad,” McCamley told HuffPost.

It’s bad for families, it’s bad for our communities, it’s bad for businesses, it’s just bad. Bill McCamley, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions

An ICE investigator told the New Mexico workforce department that it already had access to Texas workforce data, as the Albuquerque Journal first reported on Thursday. The Texas Workforce Commission confirmed it had provided such access in a statement to the Las Cruces Sun-News. “This limited access only includes information related to wage records, unemployment compensation claim benefit data and very limited employer information,” the commission said. 

It’s not clear how many other states hand over payroll information to ICE. The agency has previously said it routinely issues subpoenas for such information to state and local governments, as well as private companies. Earlier this year, a Montana labor department employee said he quit his job rather than cooperate with such a subpoena.

An ICE spokesperson did not immediately offer details in response to a HuffPost request on Friday. 

ICE relies heavily on state cooperation and local laws to bolster its deportation efforts. A custody transfer from a local jail, for example, is more efficient and less risky for officers than attempting to arrest someone in public or at their home. Things like driving under the influence, driving without a license and marijuana possession are among the most common infractions that have landed unauthorized migrants in ICE custody under Trump, according to agency statistics released to HuffPost last year. 

That means migrants are less likely to face the prospect of ICE detention in a liberal state like California, where weed is legal, undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses and the state restricts cooperation between local jails and ICE. The Republican-led state legislature in Texas, by contrast, passed a law in 2017 prohibiting local jurisdictions from creating “sanctuary” policies, and the state shares its labor data with ICE and prohibits unauthorized migrants from driving legally. 

New Mexico denied Immigration and Customs Enforcement's request for employment records.
New Mexico denied Immigration and Customs Enforcement's request for employment records.

After an employee of the New Mexico workforce department first denied ICE’s request late last week — from an ICE investigator requesting the data for its El Paso office — ICE reached out to other members of the office’s staff, according to McCamley. Staff members denied the request again. Then McCamley’s office sent out a department-wide memo to its employees indicating that if a law enforcement official contacted them, the communication should go through the department’s legal office. McCamley also informed ICE that all future requests would only go through the department’s chief legal counsel.

On Thursday, a lawyer from ICE in El Paso requested a written statement from McCamley’s office detailing its policy. McCamley said that if a law enforcement agency has a “targeted specific investigation,” the office would “consider whether to cooperate on a case by case basis.” For instance, the department is on a human trafficking task force, and by law, can work with law enforcement agencies on child support payment enforcement.

McCamley emphasized that the decision on whether to agree to requests from agency officials is completely within the office’s federal and state legal authority. 

There are two issues with ICE’s request, McCamley said. First, the workforce department isn’t going to provide law enforcement agencies “complete and unfettered access to the personal data of every person in the state,” which raises “a ton of privacy concerns.” Second, he’s from a border community — Las Cruces, New Mexico — and understands what the human consequences will be.

“Two years ago, ICE came door to door in my town, with my neighbors, and took people away at 6 in the morning with no warning,” McCamly recounted. He was a state representative at the time. Later that morning, he heard from a middle school teacher saying a 12-year-old girl was crying because her father was taken by law enforcement officials.

“It seems pretty obvious that ICE was going to use whatever employer information they can get to do these sorts of things [like the raids in Mississippi] over and over again,” McCamley added. “It’s not a secret. And that’s not something we are going to participate in.” 

CONVERSATIONS