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Immigrant community feels terrorized by ICE

Moving back and forth among the protesters, a member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido led the protesters in chants with his megaphone. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

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Last week a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted raids in Clovis. Neza Leal-Sanchez of Somos Un Pueblo Unido explained that communities of immigrants all over the state are concerned that the next one might be in their area.

A local police officer kept the peace at the protest in front of the federal building at the corner of North Richardson Avenue and West Fifth Street last week. Marcela Diaz, director of the state office of Somos Un Pueblo Unido talked with the officer as Richard Garcia of LULAC watched. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

“ICE recently opened a new office here in Roswell,” Leal-Sanchez said. “They’ve been using it as a base to terrorize immigrant families and communities throughout the southeast this week. They conducted several deportation raids in Clovis. They were roaming the streets. They were knocking on people’s doors. They were terrorizing and separating families.
“That is why the communities throughout the southeast are coming together (July 21) here in Roswell to protest in front of the office to let them know that our community is not going to stand for this terrorization of our families.”
He said they have another purpose that is equally important.
“We are here to inform our community what their rights are,” he said, “should those ICE agents come into their communities.”
Leal-Sanchez works for a group known as Somos, for short. It’s an immigrant and worker rights organization.
“I work for Somos Un Pueblo Unido,” he said. “It’s a statewide worker and immigrant rights organization with various teams throughout the state. We have a huge presence here in southeast New Mexico. We are 21 years old. We’re in 10 counties throughout the state. We’re mainly in rural communities. We mainly focus in New Mexico. We are comprised of mainly immigrant and worker families.”
ICE activities of late have Somos deeply concerned.
“We have here, today, some people whose families were separated,” Leal-Sanchez said, “whose families were terrorized in Clovis. Reports have been confirmed from community members. ICE agents were in Clovis conducting these raids July 18, 19 and 20. They were able to detain eight individuals, most of them dairy workers. We believe it’s no coincidence that just as this new office opened that suddenly there is this new wave of raids and deportations in the southeast. We know that if it happened in Clovis, it can happen in Roswell, it can happen in Portales, it can happen in Lovington and all throughout this region in places where immigrants are such key members of the community.”

Blanca Torres, of Clovis, was a witness.
“Many people panicked when ICE agents went to a dairy farm to detain people,” Torres said. “They were going after workers, chasing them down. They were intimidating individuals who they had already detained to coerce them to helping them detain other people. A lot of these people were friends of mine who were terrorized by ICE agents. One friend told me that agents told them that they were here to create chaos in your home. It translates closer to a ‘(unorganized disaster)’
“They are doing this in front of people’s children, in their homes, on the streets and creating a panic in the community. All the stores are closing down, businesses are empty and the commercial atmosphere has deteriorated because of this. It is affecting everyone in the community.”
She said children are being left unprotected.
“Most of the children of people being detained are U.S. citizens,” Torres said, “and since school is out they’re at home witnessing this and being terrorized by the agents.”
Torres said many legal immigrants are afraid to stay now.
“People are panicked as a result of these raids,” she said, “and people are talking of leaving.”
Marcela Diaz is the Director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido’s main office in Santa Fe. She’s working to get Congress to see the practical implications of these raids.
“We sent all of this information to the congressional delegation,” Diaz said. “How much taxpayer resources are they going to use to do this? Do they know how fragile these communities are?”
A number of protesters commented that the dairy industry, agriculture in general and other industries would suffer as a result of these raids.
Emily Valencia is a 17-year-old senior at Roswell High School and is the director of Roswell’s Somos Chaves.
“I’ve spent my entire life around immigrants,” Valencia said. “I was born a citizen of the United States, but my relatives and friends have always been part of the immigrant community. To me, it was very important to take care of those people that have encouraged economic growth in my community.”
Valencia sees the effect of immigrants doing work that natives don’t do.
“I think it’s important to realize that the immigrant community has helped Roswell flourish in the oil fields and in the lecherias (dairies), and in every area where it is possible,” she said. “Without immigrant help there wouldn’t be as much growth as there is today.”
A common phenomenon that Valencia has seen many times is immigrant teen males signing up for selective service, or enlisting.
“I have friends in the immigrant community who have recently turned 18,” she said. “They are working to get into the United States military because this is their country and they’re ready to defend it.”
Valencia gave voice to a community concern.
“We want to let ICE know that our community of Roswell is not a base to terrorize our neighboring communities from,” she said. “ICE is going after the very people that are keeping our rural communities alive. This week it was Clovis. What is next? We are watching and we are conscious of their actions. They need to know that they are not going to separate our families.”
The Daily Record reached out to the Public Affairs office of the Department of Homeland Security. An email was received from them Thursday, in which they say they will respond with a statement as soon as possible.
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.