Commentary: FARMINGTON, NM--On Tuesday, as the Trump administration continues to redirect funds from critical federal agencies in order to ramp up its detention and deportations efforts, local immigrant families, educators, faith and other community leaders spoke out during a press conference against a new federal immigration enforcement operation in Farmington and announced a series of community efforts to ensure workers and their families know their rights.
Last week, at least six U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in two unmarked vehicles began targeting long-time immigrant residents and their families. At least 8 people were detained in front of several local businesses, outside their homes or in parking lots causing widespread panic and disrupting the lives of countless families.
"Using vast amounts of resources to terrorize immigrant families goes against what New Mexico stands for," said Maria de Jesus Martinez, long-time resident of Farmington and member of Familia Unidas Por Justicia, the membership team of Somos Un Pueblo Unidoin San Juan County. "Instead of using our taxpayer money to help revive struggling rural communities like Farmington, the Trump administration continues to use those funds to destabilize them. We need our leaders in Congress to stand with us and fight to protect our rural communities."
The six additional ICE agents are on top of the full time local ICE agent that operates out of the San Juan County sheriff's office.
"ICE has taken the backbone that held our family together," said Tzairet Viveros, whose family has been living in Farmington for nearly 20 years. "Last Friday morning, my mom was picked up at her home by ICE agents. My brothers and I watched as her house was surrounded by six ICE agents, two sheriff's deputies and two U.S. Marshalls. They handcuffed her like she was a criminal and took her away. My mom is not just a name on a piece of paper, she is a wife, a daughter, a grandma and a sister. ICE has ripped our hearts out of our chests and stomped on them over and over again. Before they took her, I told them they had the wrong person, they didn't care."
"I feel helpless," said Jesus Valadez, who has a 9-year-old U.S. citizen son and whose family has been living in Farmington for 10 years. "Last Thursday, ICE agents raided my home as my son was playing with his friends outside and I was at work. They held a gun to my wife's head as if she were a criminal and took her away. She was the pillar that sustained our entire family."
"Our family is devasted, my children don't want to go to school and keep on asking for their dad," said Abigail Camarillo, whose family has been living in Farmington for 12 years. "Last Saturday, three ICE agents went to my husband's work, handcuffed him in front of his customers and took him away."
"We know that under the Trump administration, ICE has been using extreme and aggressive tactics to target immigrant families," said Damian Lara, attorney who represents some of the families that were separated. "What is happening in Farmington is even more extreme. ICE is charging people with illegal re-entry who have never been deported, going to their homes in a show of force."
"ICE is targeting rural communities like Farmington because they think no one is watching," said Arely Cano, Director of ENLACE's Herencia Latina Center at San Juan College and member of Familias Unidas Por Justicia. "Well, we are watching. along with our many allies, are ramping up know-your-rights outreach, we will be going door-to-door, business-to-business to ensure everyone knows their rights, we will be offering know-your-rights presentations and our members will be documenting any abuses they are seeing in their neighborhoods and we will continue to organize and defend our community."
Other community leaders also reacted to the new ICE enforcement operation.
"The actions carried out by ICE are anti-family and anti-American," said Aztec Mayor Victor Snover. "They are meant to divide us, instill fear and destabilize our community. We do not need ICE in our backyard. Immigrants make an immeasurable contribution to our economy. I will do all I can to support the immigrant community in Aztec and all over San Juan County."
"We will not stand by as families in our community are unjustly targeted and separated," said Mark Louis, board member of the San Juan Unitarian Fellowship in Farmington. "Our faith tradition teach us that we must uphold the worth and dignity of all people. Immigrants' rights are human rights. We will do all we can to support these and all immigrant families."
"When ICE agents snatch mothers and fathers from their homes they leave behind traumatized children," said Laura Marshall, member of Indivisible San Juan. "Americans are a generous and open-hearted people. We should not be destroying families, destroying lives. We can do better. We are better than this."
"When ICE comes into our community, they create fear on so many levels," said Eleana Butler, Director of Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico. "They prevent victims of crime from seeking services both for themselves and their children. We stand in support of our immigrant community here in Farmington and will do all we can to help."
Familias Unidas Por Justicia is made up of over 70 immigrant families from San Juan County and is the local affiliate of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. Somos is a statewide immigrant-led civil and worker's rights organization with membership teams in ten counties and offices in Santa Fe and Roswell.