Sessions Takes Fight On Border Enforcement To NM, UNM Considers Eliminating Some Sports

Apr 11, 2018

Sessions Takes Fight On Border Enforcement To New MexicoThe Associated Press

As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought his tough stance on immigration enforcement to New Mexico on Wednesday, telling border sheriffs that cracking down on illegal crossings and drug smuggling is necessary to build a lawful immigration system.

Sessions ticked off stories about smugglers being caught with opioids and cocaine at the U.S.-Mexico border and legal loopholes that have encouraged more immigrants to make the journey.

Outside, dozens of immigrant rights activists protested Sessions' visit.

Sessions was speaking in Las Cruces at the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition annual spring meeting with the Southwestern Border Sheriff's Coalition, which includes 31 sheriff's departments from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The departments patrol areas located within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of the border.

Sessions' trip to Las Cruces, a small city about an hour north of the border, comes as construction begins nearby on 20 miles (32 kilometers) of steel fencing that officials say is a part of Trump's promised wall.

UNM Considers Eliminating SportsThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico has authorized its athletic director to eliminate programs in the cash-strapped department.

University President Garnett S. Stokes addressed the regents Finance and Facilities Committee on Tuesday, saying athletic director Eddie Nunez has been instructed to propose sport eliminations by this summer.

Stokes says student athletes should be given notice a year before their sport is eliminated.

Nunez says no decision has been made yet on which sports will be cut. The university sponsors 22 varsity sports programs.

The action comes as the athletics department entered this year with $4.7 million in accumulated deficits. The department is expecting to overspend this fiscal year's budget by a $2.1 million and is projecting another $2.3 million deficit for the next year.

State To Close New Mexico's Largest Online Charter SchoolThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico's top education official has decided to not renew the charter for an online school, citing its failure to live up to its touted potential.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski last week announced the decision that follows the recommendation set by the Public Education Commission on the New Mexico Connections Academy's renewal application.

The commission in December rejected the application, citing the school's low student proficiency rates in math and its consecutive F's in the state's school grading system.

The state Public Education Department says the school is scheduled to close at the end of June. The school served nearly 2,000 students.

The school's attorney declined to comment. The newspaper was unable to reach school leader Ramoncita Arguello for comment.

Trump Administration Welcomes California Troops To The BorderThe Associated Press

The spokeswoman for President Donald Trump has welcomed the decision by California's Democrat governor to deploy 400 National Guard troops for a presidential request aimed at fighting illegal immigration and drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the Trump administration is "glad to see California Gov. Jerry Brown work with the administration and send members of the national guard to help secure the southern border."

Brown did not say how many of the California troops might actually head to the border.

He says they will not "round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life."

Trump wants up to 4,000 troops sent to the border.

He has already won commitments for about 1,600 from the Republican governors of the other states that border Mexico— Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

New Mexico State Tax Revenues Continue To RiseThe Associated Press

New Mexico state government is collecting more tax dollars than it did a year ago amid an oil industry rebound and some signs of an economic expansion.

Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday said state revenues for the first eight months of the fiscal year have increased by $672 million from the previous year, or 13 percent. February state tax revenues outpaced last year's collections.

A rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors is providing a windfall after two years of austere budgeting.

Martinez and the Democrat-led Legislature recently approved a $260 million increase in general fund spending for the coming fiscal year, with pay increases for teachers, State Police and prosecutors.

Martinez also is highlighting her 2017 veto of a proposed tax increases.

Homeland Security Secretary To Visit New MexicoAssociated Press

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will head to New Mexico for an update on President Donald Trump's proposed border wall. 

Her trip announced Tuesday comes as National Guard members continue arriving on the border under orders from Trump.

Republican governors in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico have committed at least 1,600 Guard members so far.

Nielsen is scheduled to visit new border wall construction efforts near the small town of Santa Teresa on Thursday.

Officials say the 20-mile stretch in a sprawling desert separating the U.S. from Mexico will be at least 18 feet tall.

Trump has said he wants to use the military at the border until progress is made on his proposed border wall, which has mostly stalled in Congress.

New Mexico State University Names Chancellor FinalistsAssociated Press

New Mexico State University has named five finalists for its next chancellor and one of them is the state's secretary of higher education.

The NMSU Board of Regents voted this week to approve a short list of candidates to lead the southern New Mexico college amid declining state funding.

Barbara Damron is listed as a finalist. She will leave her post as secretary of higher education when Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office at the end of the year.

Also listed were Kansas State University College of Agriculture Dean John Floros; Missouri University of Science and Technology Provost Robert Marley; former president of Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, Brian Stevenson; and U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory former president Dan Arvizu.

Forecasters Issue Red Flag Warnings For Parts Of New MexicoAssociated Press

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are warning that parts of New Mexico are in for more windy conditions later this week and that means higher fire danger.

They say a deep low-pressure system in the Great Basin will result in strong southwest winds across northern and central New Mexico. Gusts could range from 50 to 70 mph Thursday afternoon.

Red flag warnings have been issued for the areas through Thursday evening.

The warnings came as firefighters in Albuquerque doused flames that broke out in the dry wooded area along the Rio Grande on the city's south side Tuesday afternoon.

Officials say conditions are dry as the latest map shows more than three-quarters of the state are dealing with severe to extreme drought.

Proposed Dolomite Mine In New Mexico Facing CriticismDeming Headlight, Associated Press

An Elephant Butte-based company is facing criticism for a proposed dolomite mine in southern New Mexico and complaints that its application is incomplete.

The Deming Headlight reports the American Magnesium company recently submitted revised maps, figures, and other changes requested by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The application proposes to truck dolomite rock from a site to a processing facility where magnesium metal would be extracted and the leftover rock used to manufacture cement.

American Magnesium says it expects to construct a processing facility within the city of Deming's Peru Industrial Park" and purchase water from Deming.

But Deming City Administrator Aaron Sera says there have been no 'negotiations' regarding the purchase of commercial water with the City of Deming.

National Monument Expands In Northern New MexicoAssociated Press

A square mile of land is being added to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico.

The Trust for Public Land and the Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that a privately owned inholding will become part of the monument that borders Colorado.

The monument was designated by President Obama in 2013 and is under review for modifications to its status by the Interior Department.

The new territory was added to the monument using $438,000 from U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund. Revenues generated by offshore oil and gas royalty payments are allocated to the fund.

The addition is located near the center of the monument, east of the Rio Grande gorge and south of Cerro Chillo.

Republican Attorney Defends Democratic Political GadflyAssociated Press

A Republican candidate for New Mexico secretary of state has volunteered to act as defense attorney for a former congressional intern accused of disorderly conduct at a recent Democratic political convention.

Court documents filed on Tuesday indicate that political candidate and attorney JoHanna Cox is representing Riley del Rey without pay in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.

Del Rey is confronting allegations that she became violent as officers removed her from the March convention in Albuquerque, where police say she shouted and sounded an air horn to disrupt a speech by gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Del Rey contends she was discriminated against because of her transgender identity and fired in 2015 from an internship in Lujan Grisham's Washington office. Del Rey recently launched a Facebook-based campaign against Lujan Grisham's bid for governor.

New Mexico Crash Prompts Safety RecommendationsAssociated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that railroad companies install video and audio recording devices in their train cabs to monitor the activities of crew members to ensure safe operations.

The board during a meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C., also recommended that federal railroad regulators find ways to prevent collisions like the one in eastern New Mexico in 2015 in which an engineer was killed and a crew member was seriously injured.

The two crew members had jumped from their Southwestern Railroad train before it struck a parked train on a siding near Roswell. Investigators say a crew member of the parked train failed to reset a track switch before going off duty.

The board acknowledged the lack of adequate warning systems, noting that failure to reset manual switches is a known high-risk hazard.

New Mexico Woman Accused In 5 Dog Deaths Arrested In ArizonaAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Police in Albuquerque say a woman accused of abandoning five dogs to die in a sweltering car last week has been arrested in Arizona.

They say 31-year-old Sara Mauter is awaiting extradition to New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a warrant of extradition was signed Sunday in Maricopa County, which is Arizona's most populous county.

Mauter is suspected of leaving five dogs in a locked and unventilated rented SUV behind a nursery and garden center in northeast Albuquerque last Wednesday.

Police say Mauter was hired to transport the dogs to Texas by the animals' owner.

It's not immediately clear how Mauter was apprehended in Arizona.

Mayor Says Albuquerque Will Seize Cars Only After ConvictionsAssociated Press

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has directed the city's police department to only seize cars in cases with convictions.

In a statement Monday, Keller says he is asking the city council to update the ordinance to match the new policy.

The city has seized vehicles under a 25-year-old ordinance. Police could seize a car without the owner being convicted of an offense.

Police were allowed to confiscate the vehicles driven by people who were arrested on suspicion of a second or subsequent drunken driving offense or driving on a suspended license for a drunken driving arrest.

The proceeds from the seizures funded the department program and efforts to fight driving while intoxicated

A federal lawsuit against the city on its seizure program is ongoing.

New Mexico High Court Eyes Whether Inmates Can Be ExecutedAssociated Press

Defense attorneys for New Mexico's two remaining death row inmates on Tuesday urged the state Supreme Court to consider an array of similar murder cases resulting in lighter sentences.

Justices are weighing whether to move forward with the executions in a state that no longer allows death sentences. New Mexico repealed capital punishment in 2009 without canceling death sentences against Robert Fry and Timothy Allen in connection with two killings.

The state Supreme Court agreed in 2013 to consider appeals of death sentences against Fry and Allen in light of the repeal of capital punishment. The court has wavered on ground rules for deciding whether the death penalty still fits the crimes when considering other cases.

Justices listened for two hours Tuesday to oral arguments, with a ruling still likely to be months away.

Lawyers for Fry and Allen have said the death sentences violate state and federal constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment and equal-protection guarantees.

Cash-Strapped New Mexico County Will Not Get Aid From CityGallup Independent, Associated Press

A financially troubled New Mexico county will not get assistance from its largest city to help fund its sheriff's office through the rest of the year.

The Gallup Independent reports a special meeting planned for Friday for the city of Grants to consider a funding request by Cibola County was canceled due to a lack of council members present and failure to post public notice.

Grants City Manager Laura Jaramillo says the meeting will not be rescheduled.

Cibola County commissioners last week asked the city for $150,000 to keep the sheriff's office running.

Jaramillo says the city can only appropriate funding for municipal purposes and aid to the county would not be considered a municipal purpose.

Sheriff Tony Mace says his department will operate with minimal personnel to keep functioning.