ACLU demands cities in NM end panhandling bans | KOB 4
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ACLU demands cities in NM end panhandling bans

Kai Porter
August 28, 2018 06:24 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sent a letter to the mayors of 10 cities in New Mexico, demanding that they end bans on panhandling.

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Those cities are Artesia, Elephant Butte, Espanola, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, Los Lunas, Mesilla, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, and Silver City.

"We strongly believe that rather than criminalizing poverty and further marginalizing people who already live in society's fringes, that these cities should focus on their efforts on tackling the underlying causes of homelessness and poverty," said Leon Howard, ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director.

The ACLU believes panhandling bans are unconstitutional. It believes panhandling is a form of free speech.

The ACLU's letter is part of a group effort involving 18 organizations in 12 states, targeting more than 240 similar ordinances.

"Courts all across the nation have made it abundantly clear that restraints on this form of speech are inconsistent with the principals of the first amendment," said Howard.

The ACLU of New Mexico says it's given the mayors until September 11 to respond to its demands. The organization said it's ready to go to court if the mayors don't take any action.

"I think that our track record indicates that we're willing to litigate these issues,” said Howard. “It's our hope that these cities will and these mayors and legal departments will work with us for an amicable resolution."

The city of Albuquerque stopped enforcing a panhandling ordinance in February after the ACLU sued. The lawsuit is still pending.

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Kai Porter

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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