Commentary:I like Sheriff Kiki Vigil's talk. I wish he walked that talk.
He recently wrote, “It is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce the immigration laws and not the duty or responsibility of the local governmental agencies. . . I don’t want undocumented immigrants to be victims of crime and unscrupulous exploitation. If local law enforcement becomes immigration agents, it will discourage this community from reporting crime, and they will in fact be targeted and preyed upon, as I have seen this happen in the past.”
Well said. Consistent with what many savvy law enforcement officials say: becoming a tool of Border Patrol scares off crime victims from reporting rapes or other violent crimes.
But not well done! Department records indicate that during Vigil's time in office DASO has turned over to the Feds, or otherwise helped the Feds incarcerate, perhaps a thousand people who committed no state crime.
One DASO report lists 518 “CBP referrals” during the October 2016 to September 2017 period. “After Action Reports” from that period show that there were more than 600 people whom DASO reported to Border Patrol, helped Border Patrol apprehend, or otherwise assisted the Feds to arrest and incarcerate. For the 600, reports mention no state crimes. I didn't count the handful of others who were reportedly bringing in drugs or smuggling undocumented humans. In the six months since, there were another 195 “CBP referrals” – with only six arrests. The vast majority were not carrying drugs for sale.
Border Patrol is doing its job. Whether one agrees or disagrees with its job description.
Some would argue DASO should do that job too. But Sheriff Vigil doesn't. He articulates why he shouldn't enforce federal immigration laws – even while he apparently does that repeatedly. Six hundred people last year – many in little groups of two or three, crossing the border, without drugs or firearms or any apparent intent to break New Mexico's laws.
Unless there's some mistake, some of his recent statements seem so inconsistent with the facts that they sound like lies. I've tried to get Sheriff Vigil to state his view of these facts, or correct mine. But, as for awhile now, he hasn't responded to me. So far, at least.
Last September, to obtain county commission approval of Stonegarden grants, Undersheriff Roberts and another officer promised the county commission that those grants would not require DASO to enforce immigration laws, but would be used for drugs and gunrunning. When I called Commissioner Garrett, he noted that Vigil's recent column tracked county policy. I asked whether Stonegarden meant enforcing Federal law. Garrett said, “They were not supposed to be using Stonegarden for enforcement of immigration laws, and I've asked every time it came up.”
Video of that county commission meeting seems to show Roberts flatly misleading the Commission to get the grant approved. Commissioner John Vasquez asks what happens if a deputy, who's working overtime on Stonegarden money and has intel that someone is running drugs up in Hatch, stops the car and determines there are no drugs but the driver is here illegally. Roberts reassures him that if there were no state crimes, “We'd have to go back to our policy, that we don't enforce the immigration laws. . . They would be released.” How's that square with hunting down hundreds of families without papers for Border Patrol?
I hope Sheriff Vigil answers to someone about all this.