Saturday, September 15, 2007

Knocks and Talk

Photo: by Greg Lundeen

Dark Clouds Over Chaparral New Mexico
Operation Stonegarden Should Be Called Operation Stone Age

Officer calls knocking on doors of private homes "knocks and talk."
ACLU: Immigrant operation a matter of trust
By Jason Gibbs/Sun-News reporter
Las Cruces Sun-News
Article Launched: 09/15/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

LAS CRUCES — The detention this week of several undocumented immigrants in the Chaparral and Vado areas has a national advocacy group on alert and local law enforcement agencies defending their role in Operation Stonegarden.

Monday, the U.S. Border Patrol, along with sheriff's departments from Doña Ana and Otero counties, conducted a 12-hour operation during which 28 undocumented immigrants were detained and turned over to the Border Patrol. The program is funded under the auspices of Operation Stonegarden, a federal homeland security program that funnels funds to local law enforcement agencies for border security.

Otero County devoted nine deputies and three county reserve deputies. Doña Ana County had two deputies on routine patrol in the area as well.

The communities overlap between the Otero and Doña Ana county line, and the two sheriff's departments patrol the area.

Doña Ana sheriff's investigator Bo Nevarez said the federally funded procedure entails officers alerting federal officials if they encounter a lawbreaker and then discover they are not in the United States legally. But it's not a sweep that specifically looks for undocumented immigrants, Nevarez said.

"It is not the policy of the Doña Ana County

Sheriff's Office to go knocking on doors to ascertain the immigration status of anyone," Nevarez said. "However, if through the course of the investigation we discover they are undocumented, we contact the proper authority and make them aware, then turn it over to them."

Nevarez was quick to point out the person turned over must first be a lawbreaker. For instance, if a person is the victim of a crime and calls on officers, they will be treated with the full rights of a U.S. citizen and their citizenship won't be a factor, Nevarez said.

"We do not conduct "knock and talks,'" Nevarez said. "We don't go to a person's residence, unless we have evidence" of criminal activity.

..."We get a lot of calls from the community," he said. "But in regard to Operation Stonegarden, it's a sprinkling of calls. Sometimes it's related to Stonegarden. Sometimes it's other agencies."

Otero County Undersheriff Norbert Sanchez told the Alamogordo Daily-News that sheriff's deputies worked increased patrols in the area. If officers found a violation for something such as a loose dog or traffic offense, they then checked on the immigration status of the offender.

...The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday issued a condemnation of the 12-hour operation, saying local agencies should not be assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. A news release issued by the ACLU alleges officers were knocking on doors and checking identification in neighborhoods with a significant immigrant population.

Nevarez said that was not the case for the two Doña Ana deputies who were in the area during the operation, but were only conducting normal patrols. If, during the course of those duties, they found a lawbreaker who was not in the country legally, that person would be turned over to Border Patrol officials. That, Nevarez said, is standard procedure at all times.

...The ACLU has filed public records requests with both sheriff's departments seeking information about the collaboration with federal immigration agencies. The ACLU maintains immigrants in these communities will be reluctant to call on police in times of need as a result of what Maria Nape, director of the ACLU's Border Rights Office, called "irresponsible policing."

"Immigrants in these communities may never again trust that they can report crimes to sheriff's deputies, even if they are the victims," Nape said. "When local police become border patrol agents, it rips a hole in the fabric of public safety that takes years to mend."

Operation Stonegarden is a federal initiative that funnels additional money to participating law enforcement agencies to step-up border security efforts...

Jason Gibbs can be reached at

LINK to ACLU Request for Open Records:

For complete article:

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