By Tracy Dingmann
On Monday, Jan. 31, Governor Susana Martinez issued an executive order requiring state police officers to inquire into criminal suspect’s immigration status and “report relevant information to federal immigration enforcement authorities.”
It was the latest in a troubling stream of executive orders to come from Governor Martinez’s office since literally the moment she took office.
Like the other executive orders emanating from her office, it sought to aggressively reverse key decisions made by her predecessor, Gov. Bill Richardson. And like the rest of her executive orders, it appears to be extremely vulnerable to legal challenges on purely constitutional grounds.
Yes, the people of New Mexico elected you governor three short months ago. But even the governor of a state can’t simply make laws couched in executive orders and declare them constitutional. As you should have learned on Jan. 26, the New Mexico Supreme Court doesn’t play. On that day, the state’s highest court quickly smacked down your decision to try to block environmental rules from being printed in the State Register.
“We think there’s a great public importance attached to this,” Chief Justice Charles Daniels said of the court’s decision. “There are issues of separation of powers here. Each branch of government and various agencies of the government have separate defined powers under the rule of law, and the rule of law can’t work if agencies that don’t have that power intrude on the powers of other entities.”
You should know that if you issue executive orders that violate the constitution by abusing the separation of powers or by overstating your executive privilege or by violating people’s rights to due process and judgment by the rule of law, you will be challenged in court and you will lose. And we, the taxpayers of New Mexico, will be forced to pay for your legal defense. It was reported that attorneys from three private law firms defended you at the Supreme Court on Jan. 26 alone. How much did that cost?
I don’t think paying for legal counsel to defend a slew of illegal executive orders is what voters had in mind when they elected you.
And one other thing – please don’t write your executive orders with the help of industries that have donated thousands of dollars to your campaign and expect New Mexicans to believe you when you say there was no element of “pay to pay” at work.
Especially when, in the face of emails you released only after a public records request, the industry’s involvement was clear and the resulting order heavily favored that industry. Especially when, according to those same emails, you knew the order would be challenged in court. And on top of it all, please don’t insult our intelligence by declaring that anyone who believes that industry had any influence on the favorable order that resulted is “simply mistaken.”
At the very least, it just looks bad. Especially since you based much of your campaign for governor on criticizing the previous governor for engaging in “pay to play.”
As governor of our state, we implore you to remember that personal enmity is not an agenda, and campaign donations should not be your guide.