New Mexico official says no to working with US border agency

New Mexico

People reach through the wall from the Mexican side at the conclusion of the Hugs Not Walls event on the U.S.-Mexico border on October 13, 2018 in Sunland Park, New Mexico. More than 200 families with mixed immigration status living in the U.S. were allowed to reunify with relatives in Mexico for three minutes after Border Patrol briefly opened the border wall to allow the reunions. The event is approved by the U.S. government as families keep their feet on their respective sides of the border. The event is normally held in downtown El Paso but was moved to New Mexico due to new construction of an 18-foot border wall in El Paso. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the New Mexico State Land Office on Friday declined to add her signature to the renewal of a cooperative agreement with U.S. border authorities.

Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said she instead is siding with community members who urged her not to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over concerns about discrimination against people of color along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Garcia Richard and fellow Democrats in New Mexico have been critical of the Trump administration’s border policies. The agreement, first executed in 2015 under the Obama administration, also covers Arizona, California and Texas and involves other federal land management agencies, state historic preservation offices and tribal governments in California, Arizona and Oklahoma.

Garcia Richard contends that other tribes that have expressed cultural ties to the border region haven’t been included. Her office pointed to the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and Mescalero Apache, among several others.

“We know consultation is not the actual intention of this document and the Land Office won’t give cover to border abuses,” she said in a statement.

Aside from voicing her support for tribes, she said she stands by immigrants, refuses to support federal immigration authorities’ operations along the border and opposes the construction of the border wall.

As required by federal law and internal directives, CBP officials said they work with other federal agencies, tribes, state agencies and non-governmental groups to meet environmental regulations as well as commitments to cultural stewardship and the protection of cultural resources.

But critics argue there are loopholes that allow CBP to control what ultimately happens on state trust land and other non-federal lands along the border. They pointed to recent legal battles over waivers and other maneuvering that have cleared the way for work to move ahead on portions of the border wall.

The disputed agreement states CBP shall coordinate with affected parties as early in the project development process as practical and that alternate methods, routes and locations will be part of the discussion to avoid or minimize the effects on historic properties.

It also states that CBP will cooperate with the parties to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act, and that tribes and other land managers shall provide as much information as possible about cultural sensitivity concerns, the nature and location of any historic properties and if traditional cultural properties are present within 60 days of being requested.

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