LAS CRUCES – Dozens of demonstrators holding signs in Spanish denouncing “la poli-migra” – the immigration police – protested outside the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday.
Members of the Border Network for Human Rights, which organized the demonstration, said they had collected 10,876 signatures in a petition asking the sheriff to “instruct his deputies to stop asking questions regarding immigration status” during routine traffic stops – a practice the Sheriff’s Office denies.
“What we want is for there to stop being abuses against our community,” said Claudia Díaz, Border Network for Human Rights coordinator for Anthony.
The petition follows a December report by the network documenting 10 cases in which Doña Ana County deputies allegedly enforced federal immigration law. At the time, the Sheriff’s Office noted it handles tens of thousands of traffic citations each year and receives few complaints.
Sheriff spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said, “We don’t ask immigration status on a casual contact with somebody.” Deputies are tasked with establishing a person’s identity during a stop, primarily to establish whether warrants exist for their arrest.
Jameson said the office does not have a written policy regarding immigration enforcement. However, deputies are “not trained to inspect documents related to immigration status,” she said. “People’s immigration status is really none of our concern.”
Several demonstrators had personal stories of traffic stops by sheriff’s deputies that ended with the arrival of immigration authorities.
Lilia Rivera of Las Cruces alleges a deputy stopped her for an expired sticker, then called immigration authorities after she couldn’t produce a valid license. María Ceniceros of Las Cruces said she signed the petition after a deputy allegedly stopped her son and then called “la migra.”
Jameson said all traffic stops are recorded and the office is available to review any case in which a name, date and time are provided.
Doña Ana County voters in November will elect a new sheriff to replace Todd Garrison, whose term ends Dec. 31.
Seven candidates – five Democrats and two Republicans – have announced their intention to run, and campaign posters have gone up around Las Cruces and surrounding communities. It’s not clear whether immigration issues will play a role in the campaign.