Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

New Mexico to Consider Sanctuary City Ban in Special Session

Though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she wants to keep the July special session narrowly focused on public safety, a group of Republican state senators has proposed packages that aim to secure a porous border.

Republicans in the New Mexico state Senate say border security and the fentanyl crisis must be part of the mix if Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is serious about tackling crime during a special session in July.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen and Sen. Crystal Brantley, whose far southwestern New Mexico district touches the border with Mexico, unveiled a package of proposals Tuesday they say are aimed at securing a porous border and increasing penalties associated with fentanyl.

"I'm actually optimistic and happy to see the governor call for a special session to address public safety," Brantley, R- Elephant Butte, said in a telephone interview.

"There's [myriad] issues that we need to address here in New Mexico, but I think it's important that in that list she includes border security, which is one of those top pressing issues, especially in Southern New Mexico," Brantley said. "The increase in criminal activity as a result of this activity that continues to flourish down there is having direct impacts on our communities, not just those right there on the border."

The governor, who is traveling out of state, has said she wants to keep the special session starting July 18 very narrowly focused on public safety and indicated border security measures are off the table.

"If Republicans in the Legislature are serious about border security they need to call their GOP counterparts in Congress and ask them to send the carefully negotiated border security bill to President Biden's desk," Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, wrote in a statement to The New Mexican.

"Border enforcement is a federal responsibility and political posturing by New Mexico Republicans in an election year doesn't change that fact," she said. "My administration will cooperate with the White House and Congress to better secure our border in accordance with federal law."

The governor previously has advocated for four pieces of legislation in particular, including a bill that would send criminal defendants who are found incompetent to stand trial to a mental health or behavioral health treatment program and what she has called a "civil counterpart" to that proposal. She also has advocated for a measure to restrict panhandling and increased penalties for some crimes, such as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Democratic leaders in the Senate said they support the governor's decision to keep the session focused on competency, felons with firearms and median safety — bills that ran out of time during the 30-day session earlier this year.

"Assuming consensus is reached on the front end, we can be in and out in a day or two," Democratic leaders wrote in a statement.

House Speaker Javier Martínez could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Brantley called it a "disservice" for the governor not to add border security measures to her legislative agenda, saying it's "such an obvious area that needs attention."

Brantley, whose district covers all of Hidalgo and Luna counties and the west side of Doña Ana County, said the "unchecked flow of illegal immigration" has exposed her constituents to violent crime, human trafficking, drug smuggling and damage to their properties.

"Although these bills do not address all these issues, they will discourage and curb some illegal activity until the Governor takes more drastic steps to secure our state and protect our citizens," she said in a statement.

The proposed bills, which a spokesman said are still being drafted, include a proposal prohibiting the state and local governments from adopting policies to prohibit or restrict cooperation with federal immigration authorities, effectively banning so-called sanctuary cities in New Mexico.

Cities in the state with sanctuary status include Santa Fe, which adopted a resolution in 1999 that states "no municipal resources can be used to identify or apprehend any non-citizen resident on the sole basis of immigration status, unless otherwise lawfully required to do so."

Brantley and Baca are also proposing legislation that would increase the penalty for selling or distributing fentanyl by three years; adding a first-degree murder charge for distribution of fentanyl resulting in death; and a bill appropriating $3 million to improve communication infrastructure for border security and surveillance.

Baca said in a statement the governor and Democratic leaders have yet to reach consensus on a public safety package for the special session.

"In the meantime, we have an unprecedented public safety crisis unfolding at the southern border — one that demands our immediate attention and action," Baca said. "If the Governor is serious about fighting crime, let's start by securing our state from the criminals ravaging our border communities with fatal drugs and deadly violence."

Baca called the situation at the border a humanitarian crisis.

"Too many human lives are at risk, and without strong leadership and action at the state level, this pressing situation will get much worse," he said. "We have tools at our disposal, and I urge the Governor and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to work with us on this moving forward."

(c)2024 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
TNS delivers daily news service and syndicated premium content to more than 2,000 media and digital information publishers.
From Our Partners