Updated: Friday, 04 Feb 2011, 4:39 PM MST
Published : Friday, 04 Feb 2011, 4:39 PM MST
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Gov. Susana Martinez is getting major backlash from some state lawmakers, following her executive order directing law enforcement to ask criminal suspects about their immigration status. A slew of bills reversing the mandate have already been introduced with more to come.
"I was outraged," said Rep. Eleanor Chavez , D-Albuquerque. "I was absolutely outraged."
"We're not Arizona," said Sen. Eric Griego , D-Albuquerque. "This is New Mexico."
Many state lawmakers said Martinez's order mirrors SB 1070 , Arizona's controversial immigration bill, that was signed into law April 2010. New Mexico legislators said the order will hurt tourism, divide the immigrant community and spur racism, just like it did in Arizona.
"To single out people and to force law enforcement to stop someone and ask about immigration status is un-American, it's unconstitutional, and it wreaks of Arizona," said Griego.
But Martinez said it is a public safety issue. Her order, signed Monday and effective immediately, would allow law enforcement officers to ask people they arrest whether they're in the country legally. Martinez said witnesses and victims of crimes would not be required to provide immigration status. The order applies to state police, state parks officers, game wardens and motor transportation officers.
"The Governor made a commitment to New Mexicans to end the sanctuary policy for criminals and she has kept her word," said governor's spokesman Scott Darnell.
Darnell said Martinez's executive order is similar to the city of Albuquerque's policy of checking the immigration status of everyone who is booked into jail.
"Eighty-five percent of New Mexicans support my stance to make sure New Mexico is safe and secure from people who want to come here and cause harm," Martinez said to reporters Thursday afternoon.
Two bills have already been introduced this session that would reverse the governor's order. The Senate Public Affairs Committee gave both SB 151 and SB 152 do-pass recommendations on Thursday night.
"Our goal this session is through legislation to stop this," said Chavez.
But state lawmakers admit these bills don't have a big chance of survival on the governor's desk because she can veto them.
"We need to bring awareness to her office that we need to protect people's civil right," said Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola.
"This is New Mexico," said Griego. "We embrace our diversity and we treasure our rights."
Sen. Griego told News 13 he will soon introduce a bill that would prohibit law enforcement officials from asking anyone about their citizenship, deeming immigration status as irrelevant.