Why creating a bright line between local police and federal immigration agents, would be a boon for law and order — not a cause for chaos.

In a recent editorial, the Albuquerque Journal took aim at New Mexico state Senate Bill 196, which would prevent state and local government agencies from using their resources to enforce federal immigration laws, arguing that when law enforcement “picks and chooses” which laws to enforce and which to ignore, chaos ensues.

In fact, SB 196 would underscore what the U.S. Constitution already makes clear: that the making and enforcement of immigration laws is the exclusive domain of the federal government. Not only are states prohibited from legislating in this area, but they also have no obligation to spend their precious time and resources aiding the government in its deportation efforts.

SB 196 would underscore what the U.S. Constitution already makes clear: that the making and enforcement of immigration laws is the exclusive domain of the federal government.

In reality, any chaos we’re experiencing is a direct result of the Trump administration’s inhumane policies of systematically vilifying immigrant communities, tearing families apart, and putting children in cages.

Do we really want our local police and sheriffs aiding and abetting in these horrors?

Requiring police to enforce federal immigration laws inevitably leads to racial profiling as we saw in Arizona after the passage of SB 1070. Officers routinely initiated discriminatory stops based on nothing more than a person’s appearance or accent. Not only is this fundamentally unfair and unconstitutional, but it’s also bad for the safety of our communities.

When immigrants fear that calling the police could lead to the ripping apart of their families, they will not come forward when they have witnessed or been the victim of a crime. Furthermore, when our police are required to act as immigration agents, already underfunded law enforcement agencies spend precious resources apprehending families, rather than focusing on serious crimes.

Law enforcement agencies across New Mexico understand that the best thing they can do is stay in their lane and continue to protect and serve, not play border patrol with local tax dollars. So when our communities choose to spend their resources on strengthening public safety and protecting families, they aren’t “stomping their feet” and “refusing to play by the rules” as the Journal indicates — they are doing their job.

And this is exactly what New Mexicans want them to do.

A recent poll conducted by Latino Decisions found that a strong majority of voters do not want local law enforcement to spend our state’s limited resources on aiding Trump’s deportation efforts. Most New Mexicans want their taxpayer dollars to fund schools, create jobs, and produce real public safety solutions.

That’s why creating a bright line between local police and federal immigration agents, would be a boon for law and order — not a cause for chaos. With clear direction from the state legislature, any ambiguity concerning local law enforcement’s obligations to enforce federal immigration law will be dispelled. Moving forward, this clarity will ensure our local resources are reserved for building our communities up, protecting families, and strengthening public safety as they were intended.

Stay informed

ACLU of New Mexico is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National