Following the recent shakeup in the legislature, bills that would substantially undermine civil liberties in New Mexico now have a much greater chance of passing during the 2015 legislative session. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is gearing up to fight several threats to liberty this session:
Limitations on access to safe and legal abortions – We expect to see a host of bills designed to make it harder for women to access reproductive healthcare, including efforts to force young women to notify their parents before getting an abortion.
Restrictions on voting – Age-old efforts to make it more difficult for seniors, students and low-income New Mexicans to cast a ballot by requiring them to show a photo ID at the polls will likely have more traction this session than in the recent past. The ACLU of New Mexico stands ready to defend this most important of freedoms – the right to vote.
Increased criminal penalties and the creation of new crimes – We expect to see a slew of bills introduced that would create new crimes or increase criminal penalties that would channel more New Mexicans into our already over-crowded prisons and jails. These efforts reflect tough-on-crime political rhetoric that is out of touch with public safety and sound public policy. The ACLU of New Mexico will work to defeat these bills and rein in our runaway criminal justice system.
Driver’s licenses for immigrants – Unlike many of its closest neighbors, New Mexico has a long tradition of maintaining a diverse and welcoming environment for all people who live in our state. We need to keep it that way. Unfortunately, changes in the legislature make vindictive efforts to strip away drivers’ licenses from hard-working immigrant families even more difficult to block than in past sessions.
In addition to fending off attacks on civil liberties, the ACLU of New Mexico will fight to push through bills that will make our criminal justice system more fair, just, and humane:
Solitary confinement – We are crafting a bill to dramatically limit the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico prisons and jails by banning the use of this inhumane practice on children and those with serious mental illnesses. This proposal would also ban the use of solitary confinement for periods over 15 consecutive days, for a maximum of 60 days in any calendar year.
Civil asset forfeiture – Right now, police in New Mexico can seize a person’s car or other property, sell it, and use the proceeds to fund their own budgets – all without ever even charging him or her with a crime. We’re working on a bill that would prohibit this grotesque abuse of police power.
SWAT deployment – Police often deploy heavily-armed SWAT teams to raid people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. These militarized raids have led to unnecessary deaths and destruction of property. We are working with legislative leaders to introduce a bill that would require law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to report when they deploy SWAT teams and provide justification for these deployments.
Marijuana legalization/decriminalization – Our country’s failed drug war has eroded civil liberties, exploded our prison population, and unfairly targeted communities of color. For these reasons, the ACLU will support efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana in New Mexico during the upcoming session.