Española City Council Unanimously Votes To Adopt New Bias-Based Policing Policy; Becomes the State's Newest City to Prohibit Police from Investigating Immigration Status
September 29, 2015
SANTA FE, NM--On Tuesday, October 27th, Española became New Mexico's latest city to prohibit local law enforcement officials from asking about a person's immigration status. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the new procedures as part of a broader bias-based policing policy.
The Española policy brings the local police department into compliance with New Mexico's 2009 bias-based policing law by prohibiting officers from discriminating based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, physical or mental disability or other severe physical condition. It also makes clear that department personnel shall not initiate, prolong or expand the scope of an enforcement activity in order to determine or inquire about an individual's immigration status.
Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill meant to withhold funding from cities that establish "sanctuary" policies restricting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies.
"I have lived in Española for over 25 years," said Ramón Granillo, a founding member of Somos Española, an affiliate group of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. "There has been a real fear in this community that talking to police could turn into a deportation. That is why we met with the chief and other city officials to improve the relationship and trust between the department and the local immigrant community. We are very proud of our city council for voting to ensure that everyone is safe no matter his or her immigration status and for recognizing that we too are a part of the Española community."
Somos Española worked with city officials, Police Chief Richard Gallegos and Deputy Police Chief Miguel Maez for over a year to form the new policy. Census figures show that approximately 12% of the population in Española is foreign-born, with the majority of immigrants living in mixed status families.
"When we graduate from the police academy, we take an oath to serve and protect regardless of who it is," said Deputy Chief Maez during the presentation of the new policy to the city council. "We are about community policing. We need to reach out to the community and this is one step we needed to take. We have members of the immigrant community who are victims of violent crime and we don't want them to be afraid of calling the police."
"Northern New Mexico has been a leader on immigrants' rights," said Elsa Lopez, a community organizer with Somos. "Taos and Santa Fe were among the first in the country to adopt local policies that prevent deportations and the separation of families caused by collaboration between local police and ICE. It is great to see the City of Española follow that tradition and challenge the anti-immigrant backlash we are currently experiencing nationally and with this Governor's administration."
To see a copy of the policy click here.
To learn more about New Mexico's 2009 biased-based policing law click here.
For more information about bias-based policing click here.
Somos Un Pueblo Unido is a statewide civil and worker's rights organization with membership teams in ten counties and offices in Santa Fe and Roswell.