For generations, families across the US and Canada have struggled to get someone, anyone, to pay attention to the growing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. In the last few years, high-profile cases of brutally murdered Indigenous girls have brought the problem into the national spotlight and the pages of the national newspapers.
Despite more attention on this complicated issue, states have struggled to address it. The problems are rampant—communication breakdowns among tribal, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and there’s little to no national or statewide data collection that would even begin to define the contours.
New Mexico is not exempt from any of that. It’s among the states with the highest number of missing and murdered Indigenous women, according to The Urban Indian Health Institute, which has a comprehensive but outdated report.
Last year, the New Mexico Legislature finally decided to do something by setting up a state task force, combining the work of the Indian Affairs Department with law enforcement agencies, advocates and survivors and family members.
This group, now called the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force, recently released a report, after a year of work. The state’s first attempt led to a sobering conclusion: that a lot more work needs to be done by the task force and by legislators.
For this story, SFR spoke with Representative Melanie Stansbury, one of the co-sponsors of the original bill that set up the task force, about her impressions of the report and what could come next. SFR also interviewed New Mexico Sentencing Commission Deputy Director Douglas Carver about his work on race/ethnicity collection in the state.
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