Despite the New Mexico Supreme Court's temporary stay on evictions, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's department Monday served eviction papers to Albuquerque Mutual Aid organizer Selinda Guerrero. The community group, which has operated mostly out of her home since March, has fed thousands of people during the pandemic.
Officers arrived while volunteers were putting together over 50 care packages, Guerrero said.
”What we’re really actually dealing with?" said Guerrero. "The people out here in the trenches? We got police in our living rooms telling us we’ve got 15 minutes to get our s*** and go.”
Guerrero said two of her family members lost their income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they were taking part in a rent strike along with many other families with low incomes.
“This morning, I was on the phone with my attorney trying to file an appeal," Guerrero said. "And instead, [the property manager] shows up with the sheriff’s department, who walked into my home because the door was open, because it’s hot in the summer time, and started telling my kids to get their belongings and leave."
Peter Dunlap, the property manager, said Guerrero was being evicted for non-payment of rent for three months. "I've sent her notices and given her articles of places that will help her," he said, "but she hasn't gotten any help and hasn't paid a dime since April."
The stay on evictions that the New Mexico's Supreme Court issued in March is still in effect. However, a tenant facing eviction must provide a judge with evidence of financial hardship in court before a stay can be granted.
Guerrero said she plans to bring paperwork to the court as soon as possible.
Advocates say thousands of people could face homelessness when the Supreme Court eventually lifts the temporary stay on evictions. About 50 nonprofit organizations signed onto a letter asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to add a rent relief fund to her priorities for June's special legislative session, but she did not.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty has factsheets about housing and utilities during the COVID-19 crisis, available in English, Spanish, Arabic and Dari. There's also a form renters can use in the case of an eviction hearing to inform their property owner and the court that they are unable to pay rent and are temporarily protected from eviction under the Supreme Court's moratorium.
Guerrero's family has also endured the recent imprisonment of her husband, Clifton White, who was arrested for an administrative parole violation in early June. She says the arrest was retaliation for their activism for prisoners' rights and racial justice, and for organizing police watches.
Police arrested White days after he and Guerrero had helped organize a Black Lives Matter protest in Albuquerque's International District, where later in the evening Albuquerque police detained four teenagers on suspicion of shooting guns out of a car. The youth were never charged and no firearms were found. After all uniformed officers had cleared the scene, the vehicle was left with its keys, and Guerrero says White drove it home for safekeeping. APD officers followed him, pulled him over, and confiscated the car. APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said an officer on scene recognized White and notified the parole board.
Advocates have been calling on Gov. Lujan Grisham to release White for over a month.
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