Hate Crimes Law Passage Important for New Mexico

  • March 24, 2003

The Anti-Defamation League today congratulated the New Mexico state legislature on passing a hate crimes penalty enhancement bill. The bill defines a hate crime and lays out penalties for perpetrators of crimes that are proven by the District Attorney to be motivated by hate. The bill also provides for law enforcement training and reporting, language added to the bill for the first time this session.

"It is time that New Mexico makes a statement that hate will not be tolerated in our state," said Susan Seligman, New Mexico Regional Director of the ADL. "A special thanks to Senators Cisco McSorley and Mary Jane Garcia for their hard work in moving and passing this legislation through both houses and to former State Senator Pauline Eisenstadt for her past efforts in advocating for hate crimes statutes."

Forty-five other states have hate crimes laws on the books. The ADL has advocated and testified in favor of New Mexico legislation for 9 years. Hate crimes bills cleared both houses previously, but were continually vetoed by former Governor Gary Johnson.

Seligman said that the ADL worked closely with the Attorney General's office and the sponsors to add language in the bill to provide for law enforcement training and hate crimes reporting. The ADL has facilitated hate crimes law enforcement training over the years in spite of the absence of the bill.

"The bill has stronger impact if law enforcement understands how to recognize a hate crime and how these particular crimes affect a community," added Seligman. She said the bill calls for the Law Enforcement Academy Board to develop and incorporate into basic law enforcement training a course of instruction of at least 2 hours in the detection, investigation and reporting of a crime motivated by hate.

"Deputy Attorney General Stuart Bluestone and his staff were essential to facilitating this requirement with the Academy, and the Academy was happy to agree to the language of the training requirements," said Seligman. Hate crimes statutes were generally supported by New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

Seligman said that reporting is also an important component of the bill. The Federal Hate Crime Statistics Act requires that law enforcement agencies provide the FBI with data concerning crimes motivated by hate. " In the past, few agencies in New Mexico reported hate crimes which we expect had a lot to do with law enforcement training."

"Better reporting will give a clearer picture of the nature of hate in New Mexico and encourage schools, community and religious organizations to advocate for diversity and anti-bias education throughout the state," said Seligman.

Governor Bill Richardson has indicated he will sign the bill into law.