Advocates raise concerns over new MMIWR Council

Advocates raise concerns over disbandment of MMIWR Task Force

Right now, more than 200 Native Americans are missing throughout New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Right now, more than 200 Native Americans are missing throughout New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

That’s why, to some advocates, it was confusing when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham disbanded the New Mexico Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force earlier this year.

“We were finally getting somewhere in the national crisis that New Mexico was making this huge difference,” said Darlene Gomez, an attorney in Albuquerque.

Gomez legally represents 20 families who have a missing loved one. She also served on the now-disbanded task force the governor formed through an executive order in 2021.

Last month, the governor recently announced the formation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Advisory Council.

The time between then and the disbandment, Gomez says, made it feel like their justice was in limbo.

“If you talk to the families, they feel like there’s no more hope, that something that was promised to them, something that was working, is no longer there,” Gomez said.

Now, Gomez says this new council has significantly fewer staff members. A lack of transparency and communication is a concern to her.

“My phone calls go unanswered to law enforcement to the Indian Affairs Division. I no longer am able to just make a phone call to follow up on a missing family member,” Gomez said.

The crisis hits close to home.

“My brother-in-law, Doc Beaver, was murdered on the San Carlos reservation. His nonnative killer only got six years. And in my community, I can just name person after person that’s gone missing and they’re still missing today,” Gomez said.

That’s why she’s leading a team of advocates to bring those concerns to state lawmakers. They want to codify the original task force into law, rather than just an executive order.

“We’re afraid, if it just goes into an executive order, that it will end,” she said.

Advocates will bring these concerns in the upcoming legislative session in January – hoping to get one step closer to justice.