“The Land Office Won’t Give Cover to Border Abuses”
SANTA FE, NM – Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard today declined to sign a renewal of a Programmatic Agreement between the New Mexico State Land Office and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In declining to sign the Agreement, Garcia Richard sided with nearly three dozen New Mexico based community organizations and individuals that signed onto a letter urging her not to work with CBP because of their “history of discriminating heavily against people of color at our nation’s southern border in the name of national security.”
The Agreement claims to establish a process and create coordination mechanisms for CBP to use while surveilling New Mexico’s southern border including hundreds of acres of state trust land. Specifically, the Agreement states that CBP will try to work with other agencies in an attempt to prevent damage or destruction to cultural properties along the border on state trust land, Tribal land, and elsewhere. The nearly 80 page document is riddled with loopholes and ultimately gives CBP total control over its activities on the border.
“The Agreement, on its face, seems to send a message that CBP cares about avoiding sacred Indigenous sites. But no agreement or Federal process kept CBP from destroying an Indigenous burial site in Arizona for construction of the border wall,” State Land Office Tribal Liaison Rachael Lorenzo said. “The Land Office has no faith that CBP will consult our office in a meaningful way, and by leaving New Mexico Pueblos, Tribes, and Nations out of the Agreement entirely, they confirmed what we already knew – it’s not in our best interest to enter into any agreement with CBP under this administration.”
CBP failed to include in the Agreement many tribes in New Mexico and other states who have stated cultural ties to Dona Ana, Hidalgo, and Luna Counties. Those tribes include the Mescalero Apache Tribe, Isleta Pueblo, Tesuque Pueblo, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Navajo Nation, Comanche Nation, and the Hopi Tribe.
“True consultation should include all Tribal governments that have expressed cultural ties to border lands. We know consultation is not the actual intention of this document and the Land Office won’t give cover to border abuses,” Commissioner Garcia Richard added. “In not signing this Agreement, we stand with our Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations, we stand with immigrants, who have had the border weaponized against them, we stand with basic human dignity and we refuse to support CBP’s operations on the southern border or construction of the border wall.”
About the New Mexico State Land Office
In fiscal year 2019, the State Land Office earned over $1 billion from leasing state trust lands for a wide variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, and mineral development. These earnings support 22 land trust beneficiaries, which include public schools throughout the state, seven universities and colleges, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, three hospitals, correctional facilities, water conservation projects, and public building construction and repair. Learn more at www.NMStateLands.org