This month’s announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would round up undocumented immigrants starting Sunday (July 14) caused hysteria throughout the nation, …
This month’s announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would round up undocumented immigrants starting Sunday (July 14) caused hysteria throughout the nation, including in Taos, where a few local residents reported sightings of the federal agents.
Local law enforcement heard the rumors, too, but agency heads said they could not confirm the federal agency’s presence in the county this week.
“Rumor is, it’s just a rumor,” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said initially. He added in an update on Tuesday (July 16) that he, too, had heard about ICE agents in Taos from a “credible source.”
At a gallery on Kit Carson Road and even the Taos Pueblo Powwow, a handful of community members said they had seen ICE agents, who typically travel in unmarked SUVs. Some wear uniforms that identify them as federal agents, while others have been known to wear plainclothes.
But ICE agents don’t look all that different from other law enforcement officers, like the Taos County Sheriff’s Special Response Team, whose members also wear tactical gear. Some county law enforcement officers also travel in unmarked vehicles.
“I spotted three agents in town this morning,” a gallery owner who works on Kit Carson Road told the Taos News in an email Sunday. “Two were armed and wearing flak vests, yellow with the ICE designations on their backs.”
She said the “agents” were going door to door with a clipboard. She later reported hearing that they were heading to the D.H. Lawrence Ranch in San Cristóbal north of Taos.
In an effort to verify her claims, the Taos News created a post on Facebook asking if others also believed they had seen ICE activity.
As of Tuesday, that post had generated 259 comments and 117 shares from dozens of users, who took to the virtual debate stage to argue over the controversial topic.
“Yes, they are in the area ... they’re using private vehicles,” Jose Varela wrote.
But many people disagreed.
“It’s not ICE,” commented Ricardo Medina. “Bounty hunters looking for suspect.”
Sheriff Hogrefe’s undersheriff, Steve Miera, and Edwardo Martinez, the head of New Mexico State Police in Taos County, also said they weren’t notified of any ICE activity in Taos.
Many commenters argued over the handling of illegal immigration under the Trump administration, which has upheld federal policy requiring immigrants who enter the country illegally with claims to asylum to be detained as their cases are processed.
“Pack your stuff if you are here illegally and have been ordered by the courts to leave our country,” said Derrick Trujillo of Questa.
“It takes years to become a citizen. Many do not have that time. Children have not done wrong,” wrote Victoria Cordova of Taos.
While ICE raids were confirmed to have taken place in Taos in March 2018, immigration operations this year remain a matter of speculation.
By policy, ICE does not comment on its operations, but in a statement provided to CNN this month, Matthew Bourke, a spokesperson for the agency, was quoted as saying, “ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
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