Federal Immigration Policy Affecting Local Communities

Felipe Rodriguez, Field Coordinator of the NM Dream Team and undergraduate senior student studying psychology at UNM, instructs dream team members in organizing strategies under the Trump administration. Rodriguez says that having a sanctuary campus at UNM is something necessary given the political climate. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port

“It’s been becoming extremely tough to focus on school,” Rodriguez said. “There are days where I will be in class and just start thinking, what if a fellow student reports me to immigration, and they show up at my house?”

New Mexico does not have specific policies preventing federal agencies collaborating with state agencies on immigration enforcement. In response, State Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) introduced Senate Bill 270. Lopez said this bill would turn New Mexico into a sanctuary that offers several provisions including deportation protection to all of its residents.

“Sanctuary means no person shall be denied benefits, opportunities or services offered by the state on the basis of immigration status,” Lopez said.

Sen. Lopez also says that employers shall not request any information regarding citizenship or immigration status.

Rachel Lazar, El Centro De Igualdad y Derechos Executive Director, speaks to the undocumented immigrant community about Pres. Trump’s new immigration policies and how it will effect Albuquerque at a membership meeting on Wednesday, Feb 15. A huge crowd of people packed El Centro De Igualdad y Derechos office. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port

The 2017  legislative session is over now. SB 270 made it to the senate floor but did not receive a vote. On Friday, March 10, NM Gov. Susana Martinez ordered the state corrections department to work with the federal government on immigration enforcement.

The New Mexico Dream Team is a statewide network of undocumented students from different universities and high schools in New Mexico working together and advocating for immigrant rights.

New Mexico holds 85,000 undocumented immigrants in the state’s workforce. That number aligns them in the top 10 states that hold the highest share of undocumented immigrants in their workforce, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center.

Albuquerque Community Reacts To President Trump’s Immigration Orders.

Under President Barack Obama’s administration, deportation policies focused on a priority system – with felons and gang members on top of the deportation list. President Trump’s executive order removes Barack Obama’s previous priority system, and now anyone who is in the United States illegally is at risk of deportation, according to The Department of Homeland Security.

As a Field Coordinator for the New Mexico Dream Team, Rodriguez works closely with the undocumented immigrant community. He says that he has heard several cases where Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents force themselves into people’s homes.

“I’ve heard of at least six cases where ICE has come into people’s houses,” Rodriguez said. “There was even a particular case where ICE officials came into a restaurant and took someone away.”

None of these cases Rodriguez mentioned have been confirmed by ICE, or any other source.

City Council members wait to commence the meeting slated for Wednesday, Feb 15. Albuquerque councilors voted 6-1 approving an immigrant friendly memorial. Photo by John Acosta/ NM News Port

“There is a lot of widespread fear and panic among the community right now,” said Rachel Lazar, Executive Director of El Centro De Igualdad y Derechos – an Albuquerque based nonprofit that advocates for immigrant rights.

Lazar debunked the false claims of immigration checkpoints that have been posted about on social media, saying that they do not exist. She said it is illegal for ICE or U.S. Homeland Security to have checkpoints in Albuquerque because the law states a checkpoint can only occur if it is 100 miles from the Mexico and U.S. border.

These rules do not apply to ICE arrests. Arrests can happen anywhere and at any time. ICE officials need only a warrant to legally enter a house. This warrant is issued by a judge after determining that the person has committed a crime based on probable cause, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

On Wednesday, February 22, the Albuquerque City Council approved a memorial affirming Albuquerque as “immigrant friendly.”

The memorial states that the city will not utilize resources for identifying or apprehending illegal immigrants unless they are required to do so in compliance with federal law.

On Tuesday, Feb 28 UNM Faculty governance voted in favor passing a resolution making UNM a sanctuary campus.

U. S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico) addresses a question from UNM professor Jose Palacios on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The congresswoman spoke at UNM and addressed many questions that international students had about President Trumps immigration executive orders. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port

However, this resolution does not mean undocumented UNM students are safe from deportation. If President Trump removes  the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), students who are currently protected under DACA run the risk of deportation.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico), addressed the UNM international student community on Wednesday, Feb, 22. She fielded questions about President Trump’s new immigration orders. Rep. Grisham says cities without sanctuary policies are less safe.

“[Sanctuary City]creates an environment that you know you are free from city police investment and intervention, and we know what it creates, because people come out of the shadows, and it’s a safer more productive city,” Rep. Grisham said.

Committee tables bill to harshen penalties for reckless drivers

State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes on the house floor during the 2017 New Mexico Legislature. The Committee of Consumer and Public Affairs tabled a bill Maestas-Barnes sponsored- the bill would apply harsher penalties for reckless drivers. Photo: John Acosta

Reckless drivers in New Mexico will not receive harsher penalties for vehicular homicide, at least this year. This topic was addressed in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Tuesday Jan. 31.

NM State Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes (R-Albuquerque) sponsored a bill in the 2017 legislative session that would increase the prison sentences of people convicted of vehicular homicide while driving recklessly.

“House bill 23 is a very simple and straight-forward piece of legislation,” Rep. Barnes said. “It is what some have referred to as a way to close the deadly driving loophole.”

The bill did not make it out of its first committee on the 14th calendar day of the 60-day legislative session.

House Bill 23 would have increased jail time for people convicted of homicide while driving recklessly. an increase from the current sentence of six years to 15 years. The bill would have also changed the crime to a second-degree felony instead of the current third-degree.

According to New Mexico Statute NMS 66-8-113, a person driving a vehicle carelessly, and disregarding the rights and safety of others at a speed or manner that endangers any person or property whether it be intentional or not, is guilty of reckless driving.

The House Consumer and Public Affair Committee heard the bill – with three Democrat committee members voting against it and two Republican committee members voting for it.

Afterward, Barnes said she feels the decision was completely partisan and that public safety should not be a partisan issue.

“We really should be focusing on good policy that benefits all New Mexicans,” Barnes said. “I made a commitment not just to the people that I represent, but all of New Mexico that I was never going to put partisan politics over the will of the people.”

New Mexico Public Defender, Kim Chavez-Cook said her opposition to HB 23 had nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with blurring the line between reckless driving and other serious driving offenses.

“My concern now is that we took that step last year to create that tier and now what we’re doing by raising the penalty for DUI and now we’re bringing that floor up for recklessness,” Chavez-Cook said. She also said raising the penalties on reckless driving would blur the line that is already in place for drunk driving.

In 2016 New Mexico ranked 14th, tied with Arizona, West Virginia, and South Dakota in the number of vehicular homicides caused by drunk drivers, according to the MADD website.

Another factor in the bill’s demise may have been the state’s considerable budget deficit.

The annual cost to incarcerate an offender in a state-run prison is $44,776, according to the Fiscal Impact Report prepared by the legislative committee

“That number seems excessively high.” said Bob Wooley (R-Albuquerque), a member of the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

As for future plans, Maestas-Barnes said she plans to reintroduce the bill next year… but for the 2017 legislative session, HB 23 is dead.

President-Elect Trump’s Pro-oil Stance Worries But Motivates New Mexico Anti-Pipeline Tribe Members

“Water not Pipeline! People are not Pipelines!” was the rallying chant that hundreds of New Mexicans were shouting in unison in front of the US Army Corps of Engineers building in Albuquerque New Mexico on Tuesday November, 15. The effort was part of a National … Continue reading President-Elect Trump’s Pro-oil Stance Worries But Motivates New Mexico Anti-Pipeline Tribe Members




As part of our Curious New Mexico project, UNM student John Acosta looked into questions from a reader about the economic contributions of undocumented families in New Mexico and the number of undocumented students who complete a higher education.

UNM Dream Team Members posing for a picture at a Christmas celebration last year. Photo by John Acosta/ NM News Port

UNM Dream Team Members posing for a picture at a Christmas celebration last year.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Ramirez.

The undocumented immigrants who boost their wallets by working in New Mexico also boost the state of New Mexico’s economy, according to a 2008 study by a financial analysis firm based out of Texas.

Immigrants work for companies across the state, and the same time own a variety of local businesses. Companies owned by undocumented immigrants produced approximately $389 million dollars in economic activity in New Mexico in the years 2006 through 2010, according to the
Partnership for the New American Economy.

Immigrants are twice as likely to open up a business than U.S.-born citizens, according to the same study.

Adriel Orozco, an immigrant advocate with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, said that the U.S. government needs to consider the contributions that immigrants provide.

“Immigrant workers are an integral part of New Mexico’s economy, whether undocumented or not – they open up businesses at twice the rate of non-foreign born Americans and make up a substantial portion of the workforce in our largest industries like oil and gas and agriculture,” Orozco said.

“Our state is blessed with a wide array of cultures, which fuels tourism here. It’s about time our government looked at all of the assets that immigrant workers provide New Mexico and it should invest more heavily in providing more paths for immigrants to become fully integrated in our educational, social, health, and economic systems,” Orozco said.

Both documented and undocumented immigrants made up 12.7 percent of New Mexico’s workforce, or 125,569 laborers in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Being part of the workforce means paying taxes, and New Mexico’s undocumented immigrants paid $86.7 million in state and local taxes in 2010, according to the data from the Institute for taxation and Economic Policy.

Maurice De Segovia, a community organizer with El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, said that society needs to push for comprehensive immigration reform in order for immigrant workers to come out of the shadows.

“We need to vigorously ensure that we do more in the arena of pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and any other forms of opportunities like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), to ensure that workers have the ability to come out of the shadows and be able to work safely and comfortably so that they are able to exercise their rights without any fear of retaliation in the workplace,” De Segovia said.

Undocumented UNM Graduate Student, Jaén Ugalde holding an “I am undocumented and unafraid” sign. Photo by John Acosta/NM News Port

Undocumented UNM Graduate Student, Jaén Ugalde
holding an “I am undocumented and unafraid” sign.
Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port

There are approximately 65,000 undocumented students who graduate high school each year in the U.S., but due to legal and financial obstacles, only about 5-10 percent of those students enroll in college, according to an Immigration Policy Center report.

New Mexico law (SB-582) states that any student who has graduated from a New Mexico high school and has held a grade point average of 2.5 or better has access to higher education, and even the Lottery Scholarship, if certain qualifications are met, regardless of their legal status.

One UNM student said he wishes more high schoolers knew about that law.

“This whole education system was basically created to control the people,” said undocumented UNM graduate student and UNM dream team member Jaén Ugalde.

“In their high schools, students are not being informed about access to higher education, and if we could create policies that would encourage students to go to school regardless of their immigration status, and have programs for undocumented immigrant students I think we would see those numbers from 5-10 percent of undocumented students enrolling in college go up.”

Ugalde said there isn’t an exact count of undocumented students in New Mexico, but there are approximately 200 undocumented students at UNM.

The UNM Dream Team, a student club consisting of undocumented students, advocates for immigration reform, increased access, and success for immigrant students and their families.

Ugalde said that the team is working in New Mexico high schools to make institutional changes that would shed a light on the opportunities that undocumented students have beyond high school.

“So one of the things what we’re doing now, through a program called D.E.E.P, Dream Educational Empowerment Program, is that we are trying to make these institutional changes in the high schools…so we’re getting certain high schools, where the students are predominantly latino, involved in this program…and we get them to pledge on how they’re going to serve undocumented students, and this could be as simple as a flyer that gives information to undocumented students on how to access higher education,” Ugalde said.

Some undocumented students who graduate are going into high-skilled careers.

In the United States, immigrants made up 46 percent of medical scientists, 35 percent of computer software engineers, 21 percent of database administrators and 20 percent of post-secondary teachers. These numbers represented a considerably larger proportion of immigrant workers than in the entire labor force in 2005, according to a report on Undocumented Students by the Immigration Policy Center.

Ugalde said local immigrants reflect that national trend.

“Also this year we recently learned the first undocumented student was accepted into medical school, and we also have two undocumented immigrant students that are in law school and we also have some undocumented immigrant students in the engineering program, and these careers are the ones that are in demand in New Mexico, and in the U.S.”

Food Trucks Teach Students

Sous Chef Joe Meyer waits inside the Street Food Institute food truck for customers. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port

Food trucks teach culinary students entrepreneurial skills

The streets of Albuquerque are coming alive as culinary students serve innovative and sizzling local fare out of their food trucks.

The students are part of the Street Food Institute (SFI). The culinary arts school helps students develop business and technical skills for an entrepreneurial start within the food industry. For the past three years, SFI partnered with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) and trained students on SFI’s food trucks.

SFI students take an entrepreneurial training class, a mobile food operations class teaching business practices and cooking techniques. Upon finishing students have an option of doing an internship on their food trucks, said Julian Griego, SFI’s lead instructor.

“That’s really where they get the practical application, they get customer-service training, they get cash-handling training, and they get food training as well…so students who take all aspects of the program benefit the most,” Griego said.

SFI student Fred Dotson prepares Korean BBQ tacos while the food truck was parked at Marble Brewery on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Dotson wants to start a pastry food truck once he graduates from the program. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port.

SFI student Fred Dotson prepares Korean BBQ tacos while the food truck was parked at Marble Brewery on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Dotson wants to start a pastry food truck once he graduates from the program. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port.

Expansion into the community

SFI expanded its core program to other schools and added a couple of other classes. During the Spring 2016 semester SFI partnered with Santa Fe Community College(SFCC), Robert F. Kennedy Charter High School(RFK) and South Valley Economic Development Center (SVEDC).

“Our recruitment pool is much larger now…so we got students coming from CNM, students who come from RFK High School, and we also reach out to community members,” Griego said.

With SFI classes students learn the business aspects of starting a food service business with lessons in  marketing, licensing and financing, Griego said.

“We chose the food truck as our business model because it’s a good option for students who want to start a business at a lower cost versus a brick and mortar restaurant,” Griego said.

As of March 2016, SFI has 12 food-truck interns, and 20 students in each of the two sections of the spring semester program. The students have 12 weeks to finish 135 hours on the truck. After finishing their hours SFI students receive a certificate of completion.

The Korean BBQ Pork Tacos are the Street Food Institute's most popular dish. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port.

The Korean BBQ Pork Tacos are the Street Food Institute’s most popular dish. Photo by John Acosta / NM News Port.

‘Real world setting’

“I’ve had a lot of fun so far…this is only my third shift on the truck, but so far it’s been super fun,” said Erik Kill, 19, a SFI student.

Kill said he is still unsure what he will do after graduation but would like to continue learning and absorbing everything he can while on the truck.

“This program definitely exposes you to a very real world setting, it’s a whole different environment than just going to school,” Kill said.

It’s been a nice kind of change of pace from what I’m used to….working on trucks is an experience unique to itself, it’s kind of it’s own thing,” said Robin Dibble, 33, a SFI student.

“I’ve been kind of wanting to venture out into the land of owning my own business so it’s kind of a nice experience to be able to kind of see what it takes to run a truck and to see what it takes to operate it everyday,” Dibble said. “It takes a lot more wore work that what people give it credit.”

The internships are paid, Griego said, and that makes SFI proud.

“We feel passionately about wanting our students to get paid well for their work,” Griego said. “I mean not only in our internship, but in the industry, we try to advocate for better wages for food service workers.”

SFI provides other culinary and business entrepreneurial resources to their students. In 2016, SFI created a secondary internship allowing students to run their own business idea at the railyard market. The market is community organized and features New Mexican culture. The students will run a food booth instead of a food truck.

“We’ve rented a booth at the railyard markets, where we’re allowing our students to run their concept through the booth,” Griego said. “What’s really cool about this market internship is that we pay for the first round of food for the students so it’s kind of like a scholarship so they can get started…if they balance their money correctly…they can have some start-up capital to pay for things like their health permit, their business license, and maybe buy small equipment.”

Spending locally

So far there have been four SFI graduates who have ventured out to open their own food trucks, and three of them are still going, Griego said.

Having more local food trucks are better for New Mexico’s general economy, Griego said.

“We’re trying to provide a pathway for folks to start their businesses, to be their own boss, in turn that helps the economy because there’s more money staying here in New Mexico. People are spending money on food trucks instead of fast-food restaurants because the money stays here instead of some big franchise.”

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