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SAT: Santa Fe Mayor Files Ethics Complaint, Armed Parolee Shot By Officers, + More

Cedar Attanasio
Associated Press
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber speaking outside city hall in Santa Fe

  Incumbent Mayor Of Santa Fe Files Ethics Complaint - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber is confronting local fraternal organizations with accusations of campaign finance violations for unreported spending on political ads in coordination with a rival candidate, as he seeks a second term in office in the November election.

The complaint responds to yard signs, newspaper ads and social media spots that criticize the mayor's handling of public tensions over historical monuments and tributes to the region's Spanish colonial past and armed conflicts of the 19th century.

Filed on Thursday with a city ethics panel, the complaint from Webber's campaign alleges campaign finance violations by an advocacy group for Spanish-colonial heritage and pride — the Union Protectiva de Santa Fe — and local chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The groups have 10 days to file a formal response.

Sascha Guinn Anderson, communications director for the Webber campaign, says the fraternal orders have engaged in electioneering and have an obligation to disclose political contributors. The ethics complaint includes a supportive email to mayor candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler from the president of the Union Protectiva.

"It's imperative that everything in the election remain above board," Anderson said Friday. "There's been an inordinate amount of negativity and attacks on the mayor by these groups."

Union Protectiva spokesman James Hallinan accused the mayor of "clearly retaliating against Hispanic, Catholic, veteran and military citizens and groups with this baseless and desperate complaint."

He described the mayor as out of touch with Santa Fe history and culture.

Webber and Vigil Coppler are both members of the Democratic Party. Republican candidate and engineer Alexis Martinez Johnson is pursuing election for mayor after a failed congressional bid in 2020.

Conflicts over history in Santa Fe have escalated amid a national conversation about public markers paying tribute to historical figures linked to racism, slavery, and genocide. 

Indigenous leaders and some younger Latino activists say figures from the region's Spanish colonial era shouldn't be celebrated because they oversaw the enslavement of Indigenous populations and tried to outlaw their cultural practices.

During Webber's tenure as mayor, Santa Fe discontinued an annual reenactment of the return of Spanish settlers 12 years after the Pueblo Indian revolt of 1680. 

A monument honoring Union soldiers who died fighting Indigenous tribes and Confederate soldiers was toppled by a tumultuous crowd last year.

Police: Armed Parolee Shot By Officers In Albuquerque – Associated Press

An Albuquerque police officer shot a parolee who used his car to ram police vehicles in a bid to evade arrest and wielded a rifle while trying to get a driver out of a nearby car in the city's southwest, authorities said Friday.

Police Chief Harold Medina said the man who was shot was hospitalized and no officers were injured in the Friday incident near Broadway and Gibson boulevards.

The suspect was not immediately identified.

Medina said the man was sought on a parole violation and was a suspect in vehicle thefts and an Albuquerque homicide investigation.

A Multi-Agency Task Force was investigating.

The shooting was the third involving Albuquerque police in the past six days.

New Mexico Hospital Workers Protest Vaccine Mandates - By Cedar Attanasio And Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Around 150 people protested in front of the New Mexico state Capitol Friday, demanding an end to vaccine mandates for health care workers.

Many protesters identified themselves as hospital workers — nurses, nursing assistants and clerical workers. Other attendees included correctional officers, retirees and children of health care workers.

A state mandate requires nurses and other workers in high-risk environments to get vaccinated, and some hospitals have their own mandates.

"I believe the vaccine is harmful," said practical nurse Katrina Philpot, who was picketing along the road outside the Capitol complex with a sign that read "Healthcare workers deserve rights."

Philpot said the hospital she works at in Rio Rancho is requiring her to be vaccinated by Aug. 27 or be fired. She fears she won't qualify for medical or religious exemptions to the mandate.

State employees, including prison guards, are required to get vaccines or submit to weekly testing. At least one prison guard has sued the state over the mandate.

Supportive drivers honked as they passed, while those who disapproved yelled at the group.

Under the public health order rolled out earlier this week, all workers in New Mexico hospitals and congregate care facilities are required to be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions. California and Washington have issued similar mandates.

Those workers who are granted exemptions still will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test every week. 

New Mexico has outpaced neighboring states when it comes to getting people vaccinated. About two-thirds of residents 18 and older have been fully vaccinated, but state health officials have warned that evidence shows inoculated people can still become infected and spread the virus.

The latest data provided by the state shows there were at least 2,866 breakthrough cases as of Aug. 9. 

In all, more than 223,000 infections have been reported since the pandemic began.

Federal officials also are calling on people to get booster shots eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, saying signs point to the effectiveness of the vaccines waning over time.

Republican state lawmakers and others in New Mexico have raised concerns about the governor's mandates, including one that requires attendees of the upcoming New Mexico State Fair to show proof of vaccination. Agriculture groups say the short notice may result in some teenagers not being able to participate in the annual junior livestock exhibition.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, New Mexico's sole Republican delegate, and other top GOP officials sent a letter to the governor asking that individuals be allowed to attend the fair if they test negative for COVID-19. They noted that many people, especially children from rural areas, will likely be unable to receive their second dose in time.

"It is unreasonable and harsh to ask families to choose between unwanted medical decisions and their child's hard work," said state Sen. Gregory Baca of Belen. "Our rural families who work all year to show at the state fair deserved to be included in this decision."

Families Separated At Mexico Border Ask For Residency, Aid - By Claudia Torrens, Associated Press

Several parents who were separated from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border during former President Donald Trump's administration on Friday asked the Homeland Security Secretary for permanent legal residency in the United States and compensation, said the mother of two of the children.

Keldy Mabel Gonzales Brebe, who was separated from two sons in the fall of 2017, said a group of parents made the request during a virtual meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. She said she explained her story to Mayorkas and told him that she fears her temporary status in the U.S. might end one day and her family being torn apart again. 

"We don't want to be separated from our kids again, after we fought for them so hard. We suffered too much," said the Honduran immigrant after the meeting. 

Gonzales Brebe, who now lives with her sons in Philadelphia, has been granted humanitarian parole, which allows her to remain in the country for three years.

Family Reunification Task Force Director Michelle Brané told the AP after the meeting that the government will look at "all the options" until it finds a solution for these families. 

"The Secretary was clear in expressing to the families that we have an obligation to support them and that we are doing everything we can to get them support, to look at ways of providing them with the permanent status. We may need legislative support for that," Brané said. 

The meeting was hosted by the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.

During his administration, Trump imposed extraordinary measures to limit asylum, including the criminal prosecution of everyone who entered the United States illegally from Mexico, which resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents. 

The Biden administration said in June that it had identified more than 3,900 children separated from their parents under Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal crossings. The exact number, however, changes often as new cases are added or others are inaccurate. 

Many children have since been reunited with a parent, and the Biden administration has promised to reunite parents who are still apart from their children. According to the government, to date, the task force has reunited 47 families and a total of 120 total people in the U.S. This breakdown includes: 47 children, 40 parents, and 33 household members. 

Gonzales Brebe, 37, fled Honduras to escape gangs, which had threatened her. She crossed the border with her youngest son Erick, now 17, and her middle child Mino, now 19, in the fall of 2017. 

They were separated at the border in New Mexico and the boys were moved to a shelter for minors and later released to family members in Philadelphia. Gonzales Brebe was kept in a detention facility in El Paso, Texas, for a year and a half and then deported to Honduras in January 2019.

She immediately traveled back north and settled in Mexico, waiting for a chance to enter the United States. In May, she was reunited with her sons. 

On Friday, she said she felt upbeat after the meeting with Mayorkas. 

"Every parent told his or her story and the Secretary promised to provide a better situation for us," she said. "I know we can get that done."

The meeting happened weeks after Homeland Security said it resumed deportation flights to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for families subject to "expedited removal," a process by which people can be removed from the country without seeing an immigration judge.

The U.S. government also this month renewed emergency powers to expel families at the border due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The number of people stopped on the border in family groups is expected to hit a record for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, said David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at DHS. 

On Friday, Homeland Security said after the meeting that Mayorkas and Brané "acknowledged the pain and trauma" that families separated under the "zero-tolerance" policy endured.

"The Secretary was clear in recognizing our responsibility," said Brané. "He apologized to the families for what the government did and is dedicated to supporting them as they move forward with their lives, recognizing that the harm cannot be undone, and that some of the emotional scars will stay with them. He encouraged them to move forward and committed to helping them to do so."

Mexican Gray Wolf Roaming Near Flagstaff Captured, Relocated – Associated Press

An endangered Mexican gray wolf that was roaming near Flagstaff has been captured and relocated to an area near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

The wolf had ventured into housing developments, raising concern from state wildlife officials that it might be intentionally or accidentally shot, or struck by a vehicle, said Jim deVos, the Mexican wolf coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"We believe that the wolf was in jeopardy," he told the Arizona Republic. "Now he'll be back in an area with females, finding a female partner, forming a pack and contributing to the recovery. That's what our goal was."

The wolf was captured earlier this month in the Coconino National Forest and has rejoined other wolves that are part of a recovery program centered in a forested area spanning parts of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. North America's rarest subspecies of gray wolf, the Mexican gray wolf was listed as endangered in 1976 after being pushed to the brink of extinction.

The population has grown since the first wolves were released in 1998 as part of the reintroduction program. The latest annual census found about 186 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona, a 14% increase over the previous census.

The latest quarterly report released this week shows several of the wolves have died this year.

Environmental groups had been hoping the wolf captured in Flagstaff could stay, even if it was beyond the northern boundary of the designated recovery zone. The groups have been referring to the animal as "Anubis," a name chosen by students in a contest not associated with government agencies. 

The groups said the wolf fed on elk carcasses, stayed away from livestock and didn't exhibit any signs of danger.

"I'm disappointed to hear that Anubis was captured," said Emily Renn, executive director of the Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. "Most people chose to live surrounded by the national forest for a reason, because they love the seclusion and are willing to coexist with wild nature."

Arizona wildlife officials said the wolf had crossed Interstate 40 at least three times, and the agency received reports that it had been spotted by people six times. Under a 2017 recovery plan, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is required to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to capture and release any wolf that ventures north of the highway. 

Federal officials are currently rewriting the regulations in response to lawsuits filed by conservation groups.