September 12, 2023

ACLU-NM concerned about public health order

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico issued a statement Monday about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health and executive orders that went into effect Friday. The order prohibits carrying firearms in public places in Bernalillo County and other provisions aimed at curtailing violent crime.

The ACLU-NM was concerned that the orders could “lead to overzealous policing and senseless incarceration.”

“The ACLU- NM is heartbroken over the recent death of a child and shares the governor’s concern for the well-being of our community. However, we are equally concerned that (Lujan Grisham’s) solution to the complicated problems of substance abuse, addiction and gun violence is to pour more resources into law enforcement,” ACLU-NM Litigation Manager Lalita Moskowitz said in Monday’s statement. “Historically, this kind of approach leads to the over-policing of our communities, racial profiling, and increased misery in the lives of already marginalized people. Instead, the governor should be following evidence-based solutions such as meaningful diversion and violence intervention programs and addressing the root causes of violence. The order also raises legitimate and pressing concerns about New Mexicans’ privacy.”

The ACLU of New Mexico is watching the legal challenges, which so far include four lawsuits in federal court and one class action lawsuit also filed in federal court.

Although most people are more concerned about the firearms aspect of the orders.

“However, we are deeply concerned about other parts of the order, including the governor’s decision to suspend a program that helps children avoid juvenile prison. We know that incarceration during childhood increases the likelihood that someone will end up in the adult criminal system. Ending a program that helps young people find a different path is counterproductive to public safety,” Moskowitz said.

About the illegal drugs aspect of the orders, the ACLU-NM acknowledged the fentanyl crisis yet it opposes “any actions that risk further criminalizing our youth or individuals struggling with addiction,” Moskowitz said.

 “ACLU-NM stands in support of initiatives that prioritize treatment and improve access to services to facilitate recovery. We know these approaches are far more effective than criminalization or incarceration,” Moskowitz said. “Our organization remains committed to advocating for policies that safeguard the civil liberties and rights of all citizens, while simultaneously addressing public health crises through compassionate, evidence-based strategies.”