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SANTA FE – A federal immigration agency sought direct access to New Mexico worker and employer records last week, but permission was ultimately denied by a Cabinet secretary in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.
The repeated requests from an El Paso-based U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official came just days before ICE agents raided several food-processing plants in Mississippi and reportedly arrested more than 600 individuals believed to be working in the country without authorization.
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In New Mexico, last week’s requests for employee records were sent to several officials with the state’s Department of Workplace Solutions, according to emails obtained by the Journal.
In one email, the ICE investigative assistant said agents already had access to a Texas workforce database and needed similar information from New Mexico for criminal investigations.
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In addition, the ICE officials said the information would be used to provide agents with a “quick same-day response” – presumably regarding workers’ legal residence status.
Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley, who officially denied the request on Aug. 2, said the agency’s employment records include the names and address of all New Mexico workers – and those on the state’s unemployment rolls.
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He said denying ICE’s request for direct access to the worker database was the “right thing” to do.
“We need to be extremely careful and protect people’s civil rights and personal information,” McCamley told the Journal.
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“Neither Gov. Lujan Grisham nor I will work to destroy families,” he added. “We need communities where people feel safe.”
McCamley, a former state legislator from Las Cruces, also said state law gives the Department of Workforce Solutions leeway to decide whether to provide law enforcement agencies with employee information in cases involving criminal investigations or child support payments.
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The agency is willing to work with law enforcement agencies in those situations, he said, but he described the broad request by ICE...
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