Pre-filed bills call on New Mexico lawmakers to address missing Indigenous persons cases
FARMINGTON — Two bills that were pre-filed by New Mexico state legislators center on addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and missing person cases involving Native Americans, items state lawmakers might address during the 30-day legislative session.
Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, filed a bill to create a position within the New Mexico Attorney General's Office to help address missing Indigenous persons cases, including assisting with the investigation and prosecution of such cases by assigning specialists to work with various law enforcement agencies.
It would also create a program in the office to develop a network to support efforts by tribes and pueblos to identify, report and find missing tribal members.
Another bill filed by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, targets the establishment of an annual event to support state residents who are searching for missing relatives.
The legislation proposes the New Mexico Department of Public Safety sponsor an annual missing persons day event to provide an opportunity for federal, state, local and tribal governments to be in one location and assist families in filing missing persons reports, update missing persons reports, submit DNA records or meet with investigators.
The department would also partner with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System to host the event, support that families need by bringing resources and agencies to a central location, a news release from the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department stated.
The bill is a product of the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force.
Since 2019, the task force has been charged with examining the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives in the state, which is home to four tribes and 19 pueblos.
Lopez and Romero are members of the task force along with tribal members, advocates, community members and tribal government officials from across the state.
"As a member of the MMIWR Task Force and Community Impact Subcommittee, I am honored to sponsor this legislation that will offer much needed support to families and communities that are longing for answers about their missing loved one," Lopez said in a statement. "The missing in New Mexico day event is a first step to improve missing persons reports and offer families the opportunity to highlight their relative's case with the media and provide support services to promote healing."
The legislative session started on Jan. 18. Members of the state House of Representatives and Senate submitted bills from Jan. 3 through Jan. 14, but can continue filing proposals until Feb. 2.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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