Santa Fe is a diverse town in a diverse state, but with that designation comes the question of citizen documentation and what is being done for those living here without it.
According to the most recent results from a Pew Research Center report on New Mexico’s demographics, there are roughly 60,000 undocumented residents statewide, which comprises nearly 3 percent of the total statewide population. To that effect, several cities and counties across the state, including Santa Fe, have declared themselves as sanctuaries for these immigrants, although the specifics of those policies vary by location.
What that means, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said, is that the city is sending a clear message to federal government: “Do not expect us to provide law enforcement assistance when it comes to your efforts to bring our residents into ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] custody and deport them.”
“This is a community that believes that there is space in our city and in our hearts for people who are different and who are here with good intentions,” added Webber. “[They want to be here] without a sense of imminent displacement that makes them hide in the shadows and puts them at risk of being victimized in many other ways.”
This idea of everyone feeling welcome without fear extends beyond city policy in Santa Fe. One organization, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, has been working with a large number of cases where unaccompanied children have either come across the border or are children of people who came seeking asylum and are now in deportation proceedings.
Allegra Love, the director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, said that it’s important to remember “everyone who is an immigrant is part of a family.”
Sanctuary policies and aid programs aside, the lack of documentation is cause for concern and fear for many. One senior at Capital High School, who did not want her name in the newspaper, began the initial proceedings for residency nearly two years ago. She said at times her family was so afraid of deportation she would skip school.
“My mom was really scared to take me to school sometimes because, yeah they [Santa Fe] don’t support ICE, but it can happen anywhere at any time,” she said. “There was a time when she wouldn’t let my little brother go to school for a few days.”
But concerns of ICE access to schools are based on a common misconception, Love said.
“ICE agents aren’t going to come to a school and pick up kids,” she said, adding students’ information cannot be shared with the agency. “The places we need to be panicked about ICE are workplaces and homes.”
Regardless, the fear of deportation affects nearly 8 percent of the families attending public school in New Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center study. Those families were found to have at least one undocumented parent.
As a result, school attendance can suffer. To offset these fears, Santa Fe Public Schools has instituted a series of measures similar to Santa Fe’s citywide ordinances, Superintendent Veronica García said. She said district leaders work with Love’s agency and other immigrant-friendly groups to provide information and protection for students.
Additionally, the district has done outreach to local authorities and the city government to commit to barring unlawful ICE access to schools.
“We have met with both mayors [former Mayor Javier Gonzales and Webber] … and with the police department so that they would not work with ICE and so that they would not be traumatizing kids,” García said.
“We want to assure families that we will not as a public school [district] allow ICE illegal access.”
Harvey McGuinness is a junior at Santa Fe High School. You can contact him at email@example.com.