Published in the Albuquerque Journal on 02/10/11
The New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice sent this letter in response to Gov. Martinez' new Executive Order authorizing State Police, Park Rangers, Fish & Wildlife Wardens to ask for immigration status:
It is with great sorrow that we read about Gov. Martinez's Executive Order 2011-009 which requires mandatory immigration verification on the part of New Mexico State Police. The Executive Order reads, in pertinent part: "State law enforcement shall inquire into the criminal suspect's immigration status, and report relevant information to federal immigration enforcement authorities." [emphasis added] We have questions about the legality of the Executive Order. Its provisions are sadly similar to a section of Arizona's SB 1070 that the U.S. District Court enjoined the State of Arizona from enforcing. That section required mandatory immigration status determinations upon arrest. The Court's rationale was that this section of SB 1070 placed an unlawful burden on immigrants who were lawfully present.
In addition, the Court found that the number of requests that would emanate from Arizona as a result of determining the immigration status of every arrestee was likely to impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from the priorities they have established. New Mexico Executive Order 2011-009 appears to place the same illegal burdens on lawful immigrants and on federal resources. Even more troubling is that Executive Order 2011-009 is broader in scope than the aforementioned section of Arizona SB 1070. The Executive Order requires immigration status determinations not simply of arrestees but of "criminal suspect[s]". We read this to mean that even when there is less than probable cause that a person has committed a crime (the standard for arrest), as, for example, at a simple police stop, state law enforcement will inquire into the person's immigration status.
We are concerned that pursuant to Executive Order 2011-009, law enforcement can use a police stop for the real purpose of ascertaining a person's immigration status. There is also the danger that people of color will be targeted. It is unlikely that a blond and blue-eyed person stopped by the state police will be asked about his or her immigration status, but likely that Hispanic-looking individuals will. We believe that this Order is an invitation to illegal racial profiling. However, our greatest concern is not with the likely illegalities of the Executive Order, but with its effect on the undocumented immigrants in out midst. These individuals, who live and work among us, will know even greater fear of deportation and separation from family members. Because of this fear, they will be less and less likely to report crime, and our community will be less safe for everyone. As members of various faith communities, we are committed to welcoming the stranger. Our faith requires us to respect the rights and dignity of all and to work for humane immigration reform. We believe that state laws such as Executive Order 2011-009 are not the solution. Such laws criminalize immigrants and compel them to live in fear. Instead, we advocate for comprehensive immigration reform based upon respect for human rights and dignity.
We know that someday soon Washington will pass an equitable immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Until that happens, we oppose all actions of the State of New Mexico that increase fear of the authorities on the part of undocumented immigrants and that make it more likely that they will face deportation. We believe that we must treat the undocumented immigrants in our midst with the same respect and and compassion that we treat all others.
Rev. Daniel Erdman, United Church of Christ
Pastor Anita Amstutz, Albuquerque Mennonite Church
Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ, Pastor Immaculate Conception Church
On behalf of the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice