SANTA FE — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's honeymoon ended Thursday, as Democrats in the Legislature denounced her for ordering state police to ask criminal suspects about their immigration status.

"Everybody in this room can be a suspect if the police say so," said Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque. "She is blurring the line between immigration law and criminal law."

Harsher words came from Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, who said people with accents or dark skin could become targets for abuse because of Martinez's order for police to question suspects about whether they are in the country legally.

"This executive order is a highly publicized form of a no-Mexican, no-dog-allowed placard," Garcia said.

Griego said he would file a bill by today to ban police from asking about immigration status. He said Martinez's order was so broad that it could dissuade victims of crimes from seeking help from police.

Martinez, who spent much of day focused on the state's bone-chilling weather and solving the troubles it had caused, was away from the Capitol when about 15 Democrats criticized her during a news conference.

Later, she said through her spokesman that their complaints were baseless.

"The governor's executive order very clearly applies to criminals, while protecting witnesses, victims and anyone else who approaches law enforcement for assistance.


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The liberal politicians who attended today's sanctuary rally are free to stand with the 12 percent of New Mexicans who support providing sanctuary for criminals who are in this country illegally," Martinez's spokesman said.

The legislators were not appeased. They said Martinez had crafted an Arizona-style immigration order to ingratiate herself with a segment of the Republican Party.

"She is pandering to a small minority outside of our state," Griego said.

Aside from Griego, two other Democrats said they had introduced bills that could negate at least parts of Martinez's order.

One would bar emergency responders from asking people in need whether they are immigrants. The second would prohibit police from detaining anybody based

solely on an immigration

violation.

Sen. Stephen Fischmann, D-Mesilla Park, said if Martinez were interested in stopping illegal immigration she would focus her attention on the restaurants, hotels and construction sites that hire people without proper documentation. Instead, he said, she made police interrogations a central theme.

He and the other Democrats said the objectionable part of Martinez's order is this: "State law enforcement officers shall inquire into the criminal suspect's status and report relevant information to federal immigration enforcement authorities."

But another part of Martinez's order states that victims and witnesses should be "assured access to our criminal justice system without fear of deportation or other immigration consequences."

Legislators said the police powers specified in Martinez's order could do what she says is not intended — discourage victims from calling police for help.

Democratic Rep. Moe Maestas, formerly a prosecutor In Albuquerque, said both people in domestic violence cases often are suspects as law officers try to sort out what happened. A victim may risk her life rather than call police if she thinks officers will question her about citizenship, Maestas said.

Fischman called Martinez's order "patchwork policymaking at its worst."

Undocumented immigrants do difficult and demanding jobs that keep the economy going. Fischmann said.

"We're being hypocrites. We want these people here, working," he said.

Martinez, though, has said otherwise.

She has called for the Legislature to repeal a law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver's licenses, saying the system defies border security.

Her stand on criminal investigations is just as clear, said Scott Darnell, Martinez's spokesman.

"Governor Martinez believes that, when someone is arrested for a crime, law enforcement should be able to determine their immigration status," he said.

Milan Simonich: msimonich@tnmnp.com