New Mexico Creates Council To Address Missing Indigenous People, Some Lawmakers Want More
With the second annual Missing in New Mexico Day scheduled for this Sunday, the state has announced the creation of an advisory committee to look for ways to implement the Missing and Murdered Indigenous State Response Plan.
But some lawmakers say they want to see a lot more done.
According to a release, The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Advisory Council will be led by tribal and state leadership, law enforcement agencies, advocates and family members who have experienced the loss of loved ones.
Indian Affairs Department Secretary-designee John Mountain gave lawmakers a preview of the announcement Tuesday during an Indian Affairs Committee meeting in Albuquerque.
But several members were critical, saying appointing an advisory council that has no real power isn’t enough.
Senator Linda Lopez says she wants to see more action and the return of the task force that was disbanded.
“It helps to focus and bring on a larger context, so it’s not the bureaucratic entity,” she said. “It’s the entity with the energy of persons who aren’t part of the bureaucracy that we’re sitting here talking about. It gives a voice to our communities. I think there is a role for an advisory council but I think there needs to be the bigger picture, the bigger context where we still are inclusive of others and sometimes what some of these task forces’ beautiful work that they do is inclusive of the whole state.”
Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero says she wants to see more action because too many people have waited too long to get answers about their missing and murdered loved ones.
“It is beyond comprehensible to me that we’re sitting here talking about human beings missing for years, for long periods of time,” she said. “With all the capacity that we have in law enforcement, we haven’t been able to give solace or resolution answers to our families.”
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Jenelle Roybal and Picuris Pueblo Gov. Craig Quanchello will lead the council. The two are in the final stages of selecting the other council members.
Mountain told lawmakers while the details are still yet to be finalized the Indian Affairs and Public Safety Departments will do all they can to make sure the advisory committee is inclusive and its recommendations are followed in the move to solve the thousands of cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Mexico.
Nationally, federal officials are weighing the recommendations of a special commission that spent more than a year gathering comments and talking with tribal leaders, families, health care providers and other experts about the best ways for tackling the high rate of violence in tribal communities.
The U.S. Interior and Justice departments are under a mandate to respond to the recommendations early next year.