- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - The Dona Ana County Commission is on record as saying it doesn’t want the southern New Mexico county or local authorities in the county enforcing federal immigration laws.

A nonbinding resolution that the commission approved 4-1 Tuesday calls for the county to establish clear policies “that leave enforcement of immigration laws to federal agencies.”

The resolution also urges other local jurisdictions throughout the county to do the same.

The resolution doesn’t mention the county sheriff's office by name, but a civil rights group recently accused the sheriff's office of enforcing federal immigration laws, the Las Cruces Suns-News reported (http://bit.ly/1k7gxfl ).

The sheriff's office denies doing that and said its personnel don’t act as federal agents and aren’t trained to be federal agents.

“Our office is currently rewriting all departmental policies as part of an accreditation process, and it is likely that updated - and perhaps more clear - policies on this issue will be rewritten anyway,” said Kelly Jameson, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

Commission Chairman Billy Garrett said the commission’s resolution is intended to promote building trust in law enforcement agencies.

“What’s been called for is a clear policy to make sure everyone understands it,” he said.

Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told commissioners that when local law enforcement asks about a person’s immigration status, it keeps people who are in the country illegally from reporting crimes such as domestic violence.

Earlier this month, the group delivered petitions with thousands of signatures to county officials, urging Sheriff Todd Garrison to take steps that include instructing deputies to stop asking about immigration status or for Social Security numbers during routine traffic stops.

Commissioner Wayne Hancock said he viewed Tuesday’s resolution as an “issue of human rights.”

“My belief is that human rights of one affects the human rights of all of us,” he said. “I support this issue strongly because everyone should feel safe in their community.”