Immigration Audits At NM Businesses Sow Fear, UNM Welcomes First Female President

Mar 5, 2018

Immigration Audits At New Mexico Businesses Sow Fear- Associated Press

Immigrant rights advocates and local officials in New Mexico's state capital city say that recent businesses inspections by federal immigration enforcement officials and additional detentions are sowing fear in the community.

Marcela Diaz of the immigrant-advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido said that at least six businesses in Santa Fe were hit with employment audits over the past week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agency officials for the region had no immediate comment.

Diaz is not naming the businesses because audits are ongoing but described them as locally owned and not franchises. She also said four people were detained by immigration officials.

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said the enforcement actions amount to bullying. Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia says students are anxious.

University Of New Mexico's 1st Female President To Take HelmAssociated Press

The first female president in the history of the University of New Mexico has taken the helm.

Garnett Stokes is scheduled to be introduced to campus Monday after being named president in November.

The 61-year-old Stokes accepted a five-year contract with a salary of $400,000. She comes to UNM from the University of Missouri, where she was provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

She takes over as UNM and other New Mexico colleges grapple with funding shortages and enrollments that have generally trended downward.

The university also faces accusations of financial mismanagement in its athletics department.

UNM football coach Bob Davie also is serving a 30-day suspension following multiple investigations that examined whether he and his staff interfered with criminal probes or misconduct cases involving players.

High Court: Feds Have Role In Texas-New Mexico Water Fight- Associated Press

A lawsuit pitting Texas against New Mexico and Colorado over access to water from the Rio Grande must be sent back to an arbitrator to resolve the dispute, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Justice Neil Gorsuch noted the federal government has an interest in ensuring water commitments are kept involving one of North America's longest rivers, citing an international agreement with Mexico and the decades-old Rio Grande Compact. The federal government has said it may pursue claims for compact violations involving the dispute.

All sides say the stakes are high given uncertainty about the future sustainability of water supplies throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Texas took its case to the Supreme Court in 2013, asking that New Mexico stop pumping groundwater along the border so that more of the Rio Grande could flow south to farmers and residents in El Paso. Critics contend the well-pumping depletes the aquifer that would otherwise drain back into the river and flow to Texas.

New Mexico has argued that it's meeting delivery obligations to Texas.

Holocaust Survivor Slams 'Demeaning' US Airport Body Search- Associated Press

A Holocaust survivor who complained over the weekend of being subjected to a "very demeaning body search" by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents said Monday that the agency reached out to her and wants to avoid future conflicts.

"I have been contacted by the TSA to help me and they are working with me to solve this problem," Eva Mozes Kor tweeted .

Kor, 84, and her twin sister both survived the Nazi-run Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, where they were subjected as children to inhumane scientific experiments.

She said in her original tweet that the body search before she boarded a plane ruined her experience in New Mexico on Saturday speaking with teachers about Auschwitz.

"As I lecture about surviving Auschwitz I barely survive the TSA body search I detest it," said in her tweet on Sunday announcing that she had been searched.

Kor did not say at what airport the body search happened. She lives in Indiana.

A Transportation Security Administration spokesman said the agency contacted Kor to learn more about her travel experience.

This story clarifies that Auschwitz was a Nazi-run death camp in German-occupied Poland.

Albuquerque Proposal Would Decriminalize Some Pot Possession- Associated Press

Two Albuquerque city councilors say they want to decriminalize pot possession in cases where a person is caught with an ounce of marijuana or less.

Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton plan Monday to discuss their proposal to amend Albuquerque's criminal code.

It now allows for authorities to issue $50 fines to first-time offenders possessing an ounce or less of marijuana. The infraction can also result in a maximum of 15 days in jail under the criminal code.

Under Davis and Benton's proposal, possessing pot without a valid referral would be a citable offense that comes with a $25 ticket and no jail time.

The same citation could be applied in cases where an officer finds a person in possession of marijuana paraphernalia, like a pipe or bong.

Russian Invaders: Tree Threatening New Mexico Wetlands- Associated Press & Santa Fe New Mexican

An invasive plant from central Asia and southern Russia is sucking wetlands in northern New Mexico dry and officials in the area want to see the tree gone.

Officials from the Santa Fe Botanical Garden recently removed 6.5 acres of Russian olive trees from the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve as part of a long-term preservation effort, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

"Our biggest intent with tackling the Russian olive is to keep the wetlands wet," said Botanical Garden Director of Horticulture Scott Canning.

"When they leap out in the spring, the water table drops 4 feet," he added, noting the trees "are notorious for removing water from the ground."

Russian olives are also a problem in the Santa Fe National Forest. The trees grow in midrange elevations, including along the Jemez River, where they compete for water with native trees.

Recognition Awaits Hispanic Who Fought In Civil WarAssociated Press

New Mexico state lawmakers are seeking new recognition for the Civil War heroism of an Hispanic soldier for the Union Army who also led violent campaigns against Native Americans in the mid-19th century and had close ties to a community known for enslaving American Indians.

An infrastructure bill approved by the Legislature would place a bronze bust of Manuel Antonio Chaves in the Statehouse. Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has until Wednesday to act on the Legislation.

Chaves is credited with leading a crucial Union attack on a supply caravan during the 1862 battle at Glorieta Pass that helped halt the western advance of Confederate forces. A biography of Chaves says he led 450 volunteers in an armed campaign against the Navajos in 1860 that captured women and children.

Wildfire Sparks On Kirtland Air Force Base Training RangesAssociated Press

Authorities are battling a brush fire in training ranges on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.

Officials said late Sunday the blaze grew to 200 acres, or .3 square miles, as fire crews focused on spot fires near access roads.

The base said in a statement that firefighters would launch a more aggressive assault on the fire after daybreak Monday.

No injuries have been reported and no structures are currently under threat from the fire which grew Sunday thanks to high winds.

A cause has not been determined.

A 28-member firefighting contingent is on the scene.

Invasive Russian Tree Threatening New Mexico WetlandsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Officials in northern New Mexico are working to help eradicate an invasive plant from central Asia and southern Russia.

The Santa Fe New Mexico reports officials from the Santa Fe Botanical Garden recently removed 6.5 acres of Russian olive trees from the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve in a long-term preservation effort.

Authorities say the plants have been sucking the wetlands dry.

Russian olives are also a problem in the Santa Fe National Forest. The trees grow in midrange elevations, including along the Jemez River, and compete for water with native trees.

Cecil Rich of the U.S. Forest Service says the federal government would like to do something to control the Russian olive, adding that could be done by pulling them up by the roots or with herbicides.

FBI Director Makes Historic Visit To Navajo NationGallup Independent, Associated Press

FBI Director Christopher Wray has met with tribal officials of the largest Indian reservation in the U.S.

The Gallup Independent reports that Wray arrived in the tribal capital in Window Rock, Arizona, on Friday and spoke with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and other tribal and federal law enforcement officials, including FBI agents from New Mexico.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says Wray's visit to the Navajo Nation was the first by a director.

Wray says the visit, which included a stop at a crime scene, helped give him a look at law enforcement "on the front lines."

Wray said after the meeting he was "very impressed by the partnership" between Navajo and FBI officials.

The Navajo Nation spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Albuquerque Mayor Warns Of Tax Hikes As Budget Trouble LoomsAssociated Press

New Mexico's largest city doesn't have enough money, and Mayor Tim Keller is considering numerous ideas for addressing an estimated $40 million deficit.

The recently minted Democratic mayor warned last week he may have to go back on a campaign promise. He said during the campaign last year that he would raise taxes only as a last resort for public safety and only with voter approval.

The mayor's office has put out a list of ideas to cut spending and raise revenue. The proposals include raising property and gasoline taxes, increasing bus fare, cutting city worker wages and trimming the budget of the animal welfare department.

Other suggestions are to permanently cut 200 unfilled city positions, implement furlough days for city employees and close one or more city golf courses.

Many Students Absent From Las Cruces Schools After ThreatsAssociated Press

Public schools in New Mexico's second most populous city saw a big spike in student absences following unsubstantiated threats to some schools in days following the deadly shooting on Feb. 14 at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the scares likely were a factor in the near 4,900 unexcused absences Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 in the Las Cruces school district.

The district's reported enrollment this school year is nearly 25,000.

About half of Las Cruces High School's students were absent Feb. 23, and about 12 percent of all district students missed class that day. That's double the number of unexcused absences two weeks prior.

Governor Says Lobbyist Bill Didn't Go Far EnoughAssociated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation that was initially aimed at bolstering campaign finance reporting requirements for lobbyists when it came to expenses under $100.

In rejecting the legislation Friday, she said in a message to lawmakers that categories of spending spelled out in the bill were too vague and did little to provide more information to the public.

She voiced concerns about lobbyists not being required to disclose whom they are spending the money on.

The two-term Republican governor also took a swipe at lawmakers, saying they should provide full disclosure of all benefits received from lobbyists as well as make their email messages subject to the state public records law.

Martinez also has been criticized by Democrats over the years as part of the transparency debate.

New Mexico Adopts Annual Sales Tax Break At Small BusinessesAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed a bill that allows tax-free purchase at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Martinez on Friday approved a deduction that allows businesses with 10 employees or fewer to leave sales taxes off many items one day a year. The bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces aims to encourage shopping at small businesses.

In a written message, Martinez lamented that the Legislature did not act on her recommendations to overhaul the state's gross receipts tax on sales and business services.

Also Friday, the governor signed legislation to combat the spread of pecan weevils that threaten a major New Mexico crop and to deter the theft of pecans by licensing pecan buyers in order to better document and track sales.

Navajo President Approves Drought DeclarationAssociated Press

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has signed a drought declaration issued earlier this week by tribal emergency management officials.

The declaration signed Friday will clear the way for tribal offices to work together with county, state and federal agencies to get assistance as conditions worsen.

Begaye says the tribe wants to be prepared when water supplies start to diminish. Officials are concerned about wells, windmills and earthen dams across the reservation, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Officials say large-scale drought trends are predicted throughout the Four Corners region through the end of May.

The latest federal map shows severe to extreme drought conditions already affecting the area. Conditions are much drier than a year ago.

New Mexico Town Battling Growing Skunk CrisisKRQE-TV, Associated Press

Something stinks in one southeastern New Mexico town and residents want police on the case.

KRQE-TV reports skunk smell is plaguing the town of Hagerman, New Mexico, thanks to a mild winter that is bringing out the smelling mammals early.

Viola Badcock, the owner of Hagerman Township Animal Shelter, says the annoying animals are hanging in town and generally are not healthy. She says their stink appears to be a growing problem.

Hagerman Police Patrolman Adam Chavez says officers are settling up traps around town and in nearby Lake Arthur and Dexter.

Chavez says healthy skunks caught in traps will be relocated on the east side of town near a river.