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THURS: Albuquerque to monitor compliance with police reforms, + More

Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque Police Department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.
Rita Daniels
Protesters gather outside the Albuquerque Police Department following the shooting deaths of James Boyd and others on March 25. The Justice Department accused the police of engaging in a pattern of excessive force.

New Mexico city to monitor compliance with police reforms - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice say New Mexico's largest city has made enough progress with court-ordered police reforms that oversight of much of the ongoing process will be turned over to Albuquerque officials.

The announcement was made Thursday with a new joint court filing that outlines what the city will be responsible for monitoring going forward. Regular reports on compliance will be required.

The Justice Department and the city reached a consent decree several years ago to overhaul the police force in response to a series of deadly shootings that pointed to patterns of excessive force, constitutional violations and a lack of training and oversight of its officers. The terms of the agreement included new training and protocols for investigating officer shootings.

Officials with the Justice Department and federal prosecutors said the city over the last two years has been moving in the right direction with sustained compliance for significant portions of the consent decree.

New Mexico U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez pointed to the work of police officers as well as community advocates in reaching the milestone.

"Successful self-assessment is the cornerstone of true reform, and the Albuquerque community should expect no less," he said in a statement.

There are nearly two dozen consent decrees in place across the United States. The Justice Department has pushed to make the process more efficient and less expensive, with Attorney General Merrick Garland in September introduced budget caps and hearings after five years to determine if the agreements should end.

Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico earlier this year urged Garland to end the consent decree, noting that Albuquerque had spent nearly $25 million on it, including $10 million in monitor payments, and yet the city was dealing with record homicides.

Albuquerque officials have long complained about the cost of the federal monitoring and other critics have said the consent decree has complicated reform efforts.

Police Chief Harold Medina earlier this summer acknowledged what he called "a roller coaster of successes and failures" but said recent achievements have helped to improve morale and recruiting.

Medina also vowed that the city will maintain high standards as part of the self-assessment process.

"I am pleased we have finally found a light at the end of the tunnel in the reform process. We overcame many challenges to get to this point," Medina said Thursday.

Among the things Albuquerque will be self-monitoring is a multi-agency task force that investigates shootings by officers. It will also track training and policy development for specialized units, including the SWAT team, canine unit and bomb squad.

Revisions of field training for new officers and publishing information on how people can file complaints will be among Albuquerque's responsibilities.

Federal officials also said the Albuquerque Police Department has been successful so far in developing a comprehensive recruitment and hiring program. In a recent report, the federal monitor who had been tracking the city's progress noted that the department had increased interest in joining the force at a time when recruiting has become more difficult nationwide.

The department also has improved the timeliness and quality of its investigations into claims of excessive force. A contractor reviewing a backlog of internal affairs cases reported in August that much work still needed to be done but there were substantial improvements in the tone and tenor within the department's internal affairs force division.

Albuquerque also recently hired retired judge Victor Valdez as the superintendent of reform for the police department. His duties include developing the city's self-monitoring system.

North Dakota man loses appeal in a New Mexico poaching case - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld an appeals court's judgment that ordered a man to pay $74,000 restitution to the state Game and Fish Department for poaching a trophy mule deer buck in December 2015.

The restitution included $20,000 for the out of season killing done without a license plus $54,000 reimbursement to the department for the extensive investigation required for the case.

A hotline tip to the Game and Fish began the investigation after a headless deer carcass was found near Lindrith, New Mexico.

Conservation officers went to the scene and located the stashed head and trophy antlers.

Officers set up around-the-clock surveillance and said Cody W. Davis of Arnegard, North Dakota was seen retrieving the head four months later.

Game and Fish officials said Davis led the surveilling officers to the Rio Grande where he allegedly dumped the trophy head in the river.

The head was eventually found downstream about two weeks later.

Officers then worked with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to serve a search warrant on Davis.

New Mexico launches food drive for wildfire victims - Associated Press

New Mexico on Wednesday launched a campaign to replenish meat supplies for residents who lost their homes or were forced to evacuate due to a historic wildfire sparked by the federal government.

Many residents in rural parts of northern New Mexico depend on elk, deer and other game for subsistence, and the state Department of Game and Fish is hoping to source meat from hunters and ranchers to replace what was lost as part of the "Fill the Freezers" campaign.

Officials said game animal donations must be frozen solid and securely packaged with a label that identifies the type of meat and its packaging date. Farm animal donations must be in original packaging with a U.S. Department of Agriculture stamp.

A food bank in Santa Fe will collect the donations. The food then will be distributed to those in need.

The wildfire, the largest in New Mexico's recorded history, charred hundreds of square miles and forced thousands of families to flee. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and many who were able to return to their homes went without electricity as crews worked to stand up new power poles and repair transmission lines.

State officials have been pushing the Biden administration for increased assistance for those affected by this year's record wildfires and the flooding that has followed.

On Wednesday, the governor's office announced that the registration period for individual assistance through FEMA for New Mexicans affected by burn scar flooding and debris flows has been extended through Oct. 7.

Six NM counties approved to offer just one ballot drop box each - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

Six of the most rural New Mexico counties will each have just one ballot drop box available for voters this year because they will not have to follow a state regulation requiring at least two.

Bureau of Elections Director Mandy Vigil approved on Tuesday requests from six counties to waive the requirement.

County clerks for De Baca, Grant, Harding, Lincoln, Mora, and Union Counties all made reduction requests that were granted by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The boxes make voting more accessible for people in a largely rural state where people often drive for hours to reach a polling place, and few people are able to register online because of the lack of broadband infrastructure, said Hannah Burling, president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

In their requests for waivers, all but one of the six county clerks cited a scarcity of resources as the reason why they cannot make more than one drop box available. Three of them pointed to long drives between their offices and the drop box locations — six hours round trip in one case.

Size of each county with one ballot drop box this year:

  • Lincoln: 4,831 square miles
  • Grant: 3,961 square miles
  • Union: 3,823 square miles
  • De Baca: 2,322 square miles
  • Harding: 2,125 square miles
  • Mora: 1,931 square miles

The boxes make voting more accessible for people in a largely rural state where people often drive for hours to reach a polling place, and few people are able to register online because of the lack of broadband infrastructure, said Hannah Burling, president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

In their requests for waivers, all but one of the six county clerks cited a scarcity of resources as the reason why they cannot make more than one drop box available. Three of them pointed to long drives between their offices and the drop box locations — six hours round trip in one case.

“Due to the rural nature of our county, we would have to hire an additional person to service the rural locations,” Harding County Clerk CJ Garrison wrote. “Again, NOT good use of resources.”

Almost identical language about drop boxes not being a good use of resources appears in the request from Union County Clerk Brenda Green.

Elsewhere, Lincoln County Clerk Whitney Whittaker and Mora County Clerk Vivian Trujillo each wrote that they do not have enough staff to monitor the boxes.

Grant County Clerk Marisa Castrillo’s request was different, however. She wrote that it would be difficult to install the box because there is no wiring needed for a security camera to monitor it.

“The ballot box will be susceptible to tampering and vandalism,” Castrillo wrote.

However, it is unclear exactly what kind of box Grant County uses or what makes it susceptible to tampering or vandalism. Castrillo was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Burling said she has never heard of any tampering with ballot drop boxes in the state.

“I believe that drop boxes are very, very safe,” Burling said. “There really hasn’t been any proof of ballot tampering all across the U.S. with drop boxes.”

States Newsroom reports

that in the lead up to the 2020 election and since then, Republican lawmakers in many states have tried to limit or end the use of the boxes because of the potential for tampering or fraud, even though there is no proof that has happened.

New Mexico’s Legislature is controlled by Democrats, and has largely gone in the opposite direction: If not for a last-minute filibuster and a short window of time to debate and pass legislation, earlier this year the state likely would have expanded voter protections in state law including a requirement that every county install at least one of the boxes.

There have been maybe five instances of vandalism of drop boxes around the country, Burling said.

“The league is always in favor of anything that makes voting more accessible for people,” including ballot drop boxes, Burling said.

The election denial movement is playing out in New Mexico with recent events in Otero, Sandoval and Torrance Counties, Burling said.

For example, two days after former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin was barred from office for participating in Jan. 6 attack, he appeared on election denier Joe Oltmann’s podcast and said he planned to introduce a local ordinance “against the ballot drop boxes.”

“So that was my next move, was to draft an ordinance against ballot drop boxes in Otero County,” he said.

Burling said any attempts to limit the use of these drop boxes is a form of voter suppression.

“Anything that makes it harder for someone to vote, for a citizen to vote in this country, is a form of voter suppression,” she said.

New Mexico’s voting system is safe and secure, Burling said — and so is the country’s.

“There’s a great deal of process around keeping the vote safe,” she said. “We are very lucky in New Mexico to have a voting system that is generally recognized as one of the top in the nation.”

State of unease: Colorado basin tribes without water rights - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Garnett Querta slips on his work gloves as he shifts the big rig he's driving into park. Within seconds, he unrolls a fire hose and opens a hydrant, sending water flowing into one of the plastic tanks on the truck's flat bed.

His timer is set for 5 minutes, 20 seconds — when the tank will be full and he'll turn to the second one.

The water pulled from the ground here will be piped dozens of miles across rugged landscape to serve the roughly 700,000 tourists a year who visit the Grand Canyon on the Hualapai reservation in northwestern Arizona — an operation that is the tribe's main source of revenue.

Despite the Colorado River bordering more than 100 miles of Hualapai land in the canyon, the tribe can't draw from it. Native American tribes in the Colorado River basin have inherent rights to the water, but the amount and access for a dozen tribes hasn't been fully resolved, not for decades.

The 1922 Colorado River Compact that divided the water among states didn't include a share for tribes. Now that the river is shrinking because of overuse, drought and human-caused climate change, tribes want the federal government to ensure their interests are protected.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a collaborative series on the Colorado River as the 100th anniversary of the historic Colorado River Compact approaches. The Associated Press, The Colorado Sun, The Albuquerque Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Arizona Daily Star and The Nevada Independent are working together to explore the pressures on the river in 2022.

A water settlement pending in Congress would give the Hualapai Tribe the right to draw river water, plus $180 million to pipe it to tribal communities and the main tourist center at Grand Canyon West.

"It was the best of a bad deal," said Phil Wisely, the tribe's public services director. "And the thing is, I don't think we could get a better deal, especially now."

The Colorado River can no longer can meet the needs of the 40 million people and $15 billion agriculture industry that depend on it. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that Arizona, Nevada and Mexico would see deeper cuts to their water supply in 2023. The agency also is asking seven Western states to find a way to conserve more.


The 29 tribes in the Colorado River basin are in fact among the river's most senior water rights holders, a determination often tied to the date the federal government established a reservation. Tribal water rights — once they're fully resolved — could add up to about one-quarter of the river's historic flow, according to the Water & Tribes Initiative.

Unlike other water users, tribes don't lose access to water when they don't use it. A 1908 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as the Winters Doctrine says tribes have the right to enough water to establish a permanent homeland. Often, tribes give up potentially huge water claims in exchange for an assured supply and federal funding to deliver it.

To the northeast of Hualapai, the Ute Indian Tribe has Colorado River tributaries flowing on its reservation east of Salt Lake City. While the tribe has secured some rights, not everyone agrees on how much more it should receive, delaying a settlement for decades.

Ute Indian Tribe leaders say they're tired of reiterating that the federal government needs to protect tribal interests, a duty laid out in treaties and other acts.

"Until you start to deal with the inequities or the injustice, you can never really have any momentum going forward," said Shaun Chapoose, chairman of the Ute Business Committee.

"You're not resolving that. And they are in a position to do that, they are the federal government."

The situation of both the Hualapai and Ute Indian Tribe highlights the frustration of Native American leaders across the basin that although their rights may not be quantified, they are real.

Other tribes that have secured water rights have pitched in to help their neighbors amid the prolonged drought by conserving water in key reservoirs along the Colorado River. Some lease or exchange water, and use it to sustain the environment, sometimes creating revenue for themselves.

But Jay Weiner, who represents tribes in water settlements, said it would be unjust to continue to rely heavily on tribes when they haven't had access to the water as long as states in the basin.

"The tribes have already front-loaded and sacrificed by the fact that the basin has been able to use huge amounts of water that tribes have rights to over the past 100 years," Weiner said.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the Interior Department did not say how tribal water rights, which are federal rights, would be protected as the river's flow decreases. It said it is working with tribes that are affected by drought.


Querta's job is a grind but he's well-suited for it — analytical, quick and goal-oriented. He takes meticulous notes on water levels and quality as he fills the tanks that ensure tourists at Grand Canyon West have water.

The truck takes a beating on the gravel and dirt road on multiple round trips of more than 30 miles most days. The side mirrors and back windows that rattled loose are held together by red duct tape. Querta keeps tools on hand for minor repairs. Major ones or illness can put him out of commission.

He was out for two weeks because of COVID-19 last year and had no replacement.

"I didn't mind because I didn't want anybody to mess up my truck or my tanks," said Querta. "I take care of this truck like it's mine."

Once he's filled the tanks on the truck bed, the water is sent through a pipeline from just outside of Peach Springs to Grand Canyon West. The tourist center is crucial. Revenue from it funds tribal programs for the elderly, public works, the cultural center, scholarships and other social services. The main attraction is the Grand Canyon Skywalk — a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that gives tourists a view of the Colorado River 4,000 feet below.

There is not a drop to spare at Grand Canyon West. A restaurant that overlooks the Grand Canyon has waterless urinals in the restrooms and faucets with sensors. Customers are served bottled water and food in disposable containers with plastic utensils, cutting out most of dish washing.

Even if the Hualapai eventually get water from the Colorado River, those practices will stay in place, said operations manager Alvaro Cobia-Ruesga.

"We see what's going on, we have to conserve water for our future," he said.

The tribe has long planned to expand Grand Canyon West with a store, fire and police station, housing and elementary school to serve tribal members who ride a shuttle up to five hours round trip daily from Peach Springs and surrounding communities to their jobs there.

But without a secure source of water for Grand Canyon West, it won't happen, said tribal Chairman Damon Clarke. Under the settlement pending in Congress, the tribe would be responsible for building out the infrastructure to deliver water.

"One of the biggest things with our settlement is hope for the future and getting this not for us at this time but for the generations ahead," Clarke said.

Part of the reason the Hualapai Tribe did not prioritize discussions on water rights long ago is because tribal members believed that water came with their land, said Rory Majenty, board chairman of the Grand Canyon Resort Corp. that oversees Grand Canyon West.

"We took things for granted," he said. "Like you knew you were going to eat, you knew the sun was going to come up. Tomorrow is another day."

The settlement has its critics, including Hualapai rancher Clay Bravo. He said the tribe should wait, negotiate a better deal and develop groundwater resources at the same time. He's not satisfied with a lower priority water right that he equates to crumbs, given the Hualapai Tribe has been on the land since time immemorial.

"How can we run a race and come in first and get the fourth-place trophy?" Bravo said, leaning against a pickup truck on a rocky road overlooking an old water well that was contaminated with radium.

Even with secure water rights, tribes can't always fully put the water to use because they lack infrastructure. A pipeline eventually will reach the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico through another tribe's water settlement to boost economic development in the region. Jicarilla Apache has leased water it already has access to for energy production, recreation and conservation, and to benefit threatened and endangered fish. Tribes in the Phoenix area have leased water to nearby cities.

The Colorado River Indian Tribes, whose reservation sits along the river bordering Arizona and California, doesn't have the legal authority to lease its water, though a bill is pending in Congress to authorize it.

"It's our sovereignty and beneficial rights of our water — the full beneficial rights of our water," said tribal Chairwoman Amelia Flores. "We want to lease, we don't want to sell our water, and that's the difference."


The Ute Indian Tribe wants that same ability. The tribe asserts rights to 550,000 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is enough water to serve two to three U.S. households annually). A settlement negotiated 30 years ago recognizes about half of that.

"Utah's position is that's the number we're comfortable with, and we think that does more than enough to satisfy the claims of the Utes," said Utah deputy state engineer Jared Manning.

But the tribe hasn't ratified the settlement. The Utes have sued in federal court over access to water. A judge ruled in one case last year that the tribe waited too long to bring its claims against the federal government and Utah.

Daniel McCool, professor emeritus at the University of Utah, said the larger question is whether the Ute Indian Tribe has been treated justly and whether funding for water diversions have been on par with non-Native American interests.

"There's a reason why the tribe doesn't have much water and why almost all the water in the region is being used by white people," said McCool, who studies tribal water rights. "Look at who got the money, the Central Utah Project. Who got the water? Ask yourself that and ask, 'does this look fair to you?'"

It's a question tribal members have posed for decades, whether the first inhabitants of what's now the U.S. should have anything but the oldest, most secure water rights. Inevitably, others will lose water they've grown accustomed to using as tribes gain access to it.

"People have been taking our water. Are they taking it legally or illegally?" Majenty said.

"The argument from the other side is it's capitalism, free enterprise. That's where they got us. Ownership is where it's at. Until you have a piece of paper, it's not yours."

Moth outbreak stresses trees in New Mexico forests - Associated Press

An insect outbreak is believed to be causing conifer stands in some central New Mexico forests to lose their needles, further stressing trees amid an ongoing drought.

Officials with the Cibola National Forest said Wednesday that Douglas fir, white fir and even some ponderosa pine trees are turning brown as the larvae of the tussock moth feeds on the previous year's needles.

The concern, officials said, is that defoliation weakens the trees, making them vulnerable to subsequent attacks by bark beetles that may kill the tree tops or even entire trees.

The population of Douglas-Fir tussock moths, which are native defoliators, has been increasing in the Sandia and Manzano mountain ranges just east and south of Albuquerque.

"Trees may recover from early infestations which can look quite dramatic. However, multiple seasons of repeated defoliation can predispose trees to disease and other insects causing tree mortality," Forest Service entomologist Steven Souder said in a statement.

Officials also warned that people should avoid touching or handling the insects.

The caterpillars have thousands of tiny hairs covering their bodies. The female moths, egg masses and cocoons also have hairs that can cause tussockosis, an allergic reaction from direct skin contact with the insects themselves or their airborne hairs.

Symptoms may include itchiness, rashes, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing. More severe reactions, though less common, include blisters, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness.

The Forest Service conducts annual aerial surveys during the summer to track damage done by the moths and other insects around New Mexico's forests.

Souder said trees that regrow their needles will put out new shoots over the summer that will appear more bronze than gold in the fall.

In older trees or trees stressed by drought, the caterpillar can hasten mortality.

While extreme and exceptional drought in New Mexico are less prevalent than last year, all but a small portion of southern New Mexico is dealing with some form of drought. Most of central New Mexico is seeing moderate to severe conditions even as summer rains begin to tapper off.

Increasing pressures on Colorado River water in New Mexico - By Theresa Davis Albuquerque Journal

Colorado River tributaries in New Mexico bring water to the alfalfa fields in the Four Corners and the forested hills of the Gila wilderness in the southwestern part of the state.

But Colorado River and reservoir management was designed during a much wetter period.

And now, water officials are grappling with how to make do with less.

State Engineer Mike Hamman, New Mexico's top water manager, said the state "really feels the shortages" because it doesn't have the big reservoirs of other states in the Colorado River Basin.

"That's the dilemma — looking at how we can reduce demand with as soft a blow as possible," Hamman said.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a collaborative series on the Colorado River on the eve of the Colorado River Compact, signed nearly 100 years ago. The Colorado Sun, The Associated Press, The Albuquerque Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Arizona Daily Star and The Nevada Independent are working together to explore the pressures on the river in 2022.


U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton this year tasked Colorado River states with creating an ambitious conservation plan.

Touton said the states need to conserve an additional 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water next year to protect levels at Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah and Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona.

A basinwide conservation plan had not materialized by the mid-August deadline.

Nevada, Arizona and Mexico will all receive less water from the Colorado River next year because of rapidly-declining reservoirs, the Interior Department announced on Aug. 16.

Interior officials did not issue any mandatory water cuts for New Mexico.

But the state's existing water conservation programs could be under increased scrutiny.

The Upper Basin states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming did release a five-point plan this summer that points to the region's "limited" conservation options.

For two years, the states have released additional water from at least three reservoirs — including New Mexico's Navajo Reservoir — to prop up Lake Powell levels.

Those Upper Basin reservoir releases will likely continue next year, Interior officials said.

A more arid climate means all water users need to work harder to "live within our means," said Estevan López, New Mexico's representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission.

"It certainly seems that we have to reset our expectations for what we might be trying to get out of the river," said López, a former Reclamation commissioner.

In 2021, water managers considered releasing even more water from Navajo Reservoir to help water levels in downstream reservoirs.

But López said the additional release could have jeopardized regional water supplies.

"Ultimately, we argued against it," he said. "Reclamation would perhaps not have been able to fulfill its contractual obligations to folks like the Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache and others that depend on water out of Navajo."

The same issues could resurface next year if officials look to the New Mexico reservoir as an emergency supply for downstream users.

The Upper Basin plan hinges on existing conservation programs.

Strategies include fallowing fields and making irrigation more efficient.

But the entire region must work together, López said, to avoid more mandatory cuts.

"If we can get water users within places like the San Juan Basin to agree to shortage sharing agreements, then there's no need for strict priority administration," he said. "It's a more acceptable solution, generally."

Colorado River tributaries serve relatively small portions of northwest and southwest New Mexico.

But the basin's water is essential for the state's largest city: Albuquerque.

Rio Grande flows in Albuquerque are closely tied to the Colorado via the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project.

The system of tunnels and dams at the New Mexico state line diverts water into the Rio Grande Basin.

Albuquerque's municipal supply is entitled to as much as 15 billion gallons of San Juan-Chama water every year.

David Morris, the water utility spokesman for the city and county, said the Colorado River water has allowed the region to wean itself off of unsustainable groundwater pumping.

Since 2008, aquifer levels underneath the city have rebounded as much as 40 feet.

"That's exactly what we were hoping that our use of surface water would allow the aquifer to do," Morris said. "We're in a very fortunate situation here in Albuquerque to have two different and distinct sources of supply."

But less snowpack and spring runoff resulting from climate change have led to several consecutive years when the utility and other New Mexico entities have received far less water than expected from the inter-basin project.

"It's important for us to invest in things like outdoor water conservation and reuse," Morris said. "It's quite possible that there just won't be as much San Juan-Chama water available in the future because of drought and climate change."

The Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922 — just 10 years after New Mexico became a state.

New Mexico still uses only about half of its allotment under the compact each year.

That could change as more tribes reach water rights settlements and build out infrastructure to use those rights.

Agencies are making progress on large projects to deliver water to Navajo communities in western New Mexico.

A resilient future on the Colorado must have tribal sovereignty at the forefront, said Daryl Vigil, Jicarilla Apache Nation water administrator and a staunch advocate for tribal inclusion in water management issues.

"The term 'consultation' gets thrown around in the basin a whole lot," Vigil said. "But if you know one tribe, you only know one tribe. Having a seat at the table means working with every tribe to learn their specific water rights and needs."

The U.S. Interior Department has said it will engage with tribes in the basin as parties hammer out some management details of the compact that are set to expire after 2026.

A historic influx of funding for infrastructure and drought response could also help New Mexico and other basin states reduce water use and prepare for a drier future.

"I'm optimistic that we're going to sort through some of these more sticky problems with a good collaborative solution," Hamman said.

ACLU calls on Biden’s Homeland Security secretary to close the ICE detention center in Estancia, NM – By Austin Fisher,Source New Mexico

The American Civil Liberties Union is again asking the head of the Department of Homeland Security to close more immigration detention centers, including the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, N.M.

In a Sept. 6 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, two senior ACLU staff pointed to Torrance as a stark example of appalling conditions at Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers that have gotten worse during his tenure.

ACLU Federal Policy Director Christopher Anders and Senior Legislative Counsel Naureen Shah cite the recent death by suicide of Brazilian asylum seeker Kesley Vial at Torrance, and hazardous conditions documented by the DHS Office of the Inspector General, including lack of basic medical care, severe understaffing and cells that routinely flood with human excrement.

DHS did not reply to a request for any comment on the letter or a question about whether Mayorkas has responded to it.

After the ACLU urged Mayorkas to begin the reform process by closing 39 facilities notorious for substandard conditions and civil rights violations, the secretary closed two of them and announced in May 2021 that his agency would continuously review treatment and conditions inside.

“We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention,” Mayorkas said in a memo to ICE acting director Tae Johnson, who has personally been briefed on the conditions inside Torrance, according to ACLU New Mexico attorney Rebecca Sheff.

Yet Torrance has remained open, and the atrocious conditions persist — while CoreCivic, its private operator, continues to profit from a contract with ICE, Anders and Shah wrote. Along with Torrance, they are also urging Mayorkas to close two other detention centers in neighboring Texas and another in Pennsylvania.

“In light of their history of abuse, these facilities should not remain open in any form,” they wrote, “and should not be kept on standby in case a subsequent administration seeks to use them for large-scale detention of families.”

Bernalillo County funds new detox center - KUNM News

The Bernalillo County Commission has approved funding for a detox facility to become part of the new Gibson Health Hub — an array of services for those who are unhoused — which is expected to open next summer.

The commission approved $4.35 million dollars for the city’s Medical Sobering Center, which will offer non-emergency medical assistance related to substance use.

The county said in a statement yesterday [WED] that patients will be diverted from jails and ERs, which have historically served this need. Patients will also be able to access other services available on site, including The Gateway Center emergency shelter.

State of emergency declared for Hidalgo County flooding - KUNM News

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has declared a state of emergency in Hidalgo County due to flooding.

The declaration opens up $750,000 dollars in federal funding for prevention, repair, and recovery efforts. It also allows the county to request additional state resources.

The Governor’s Office said in a statement that the Gila River near Virden has seen record high water levels this monsoon season, which has caused property damage.

Mountain West Commissioner Thompson stepping down - By Pat Graham Ap Sports Writer

Craig Thompson, the only commissioner the Mountain West Conference has known, is stepping down after nearly 24 years in charge.

The league announced Wednesday that Thompson's last day will be Dec. 31. He was on board when the conference began operations in January 1999.

With the 66-year-old Thompson at the helm, Mountain West teams took part in five bowl games affiliated with the Bowl Championship Series or College Football Playoff. He also helped bolster the league's portfolio on the football field by adding Boise State — officially joining in 2011 — when Utah left for the Pac-12 and BYU became an independent.

"The entire Mountain West Conference owes a debt of gratitude to Craig for his selfless service over the history of our conference," said Garnett Stokes, the president at New Mexico and chair of the conference board of directors. "His fingerprints are on every accomplishment and every initiative we have undertaken, and he has positioned the conference to continue to be among the nation's elite."

When college football went through widespread realignment, Thompson helped the league not only add Boise State but Fresno State and Nevada in 2012, along with Hawaii in a football capacity. A year later, the Mountain West officially brought in San Jose State and Utah State.

In 2020, the league announced a six-year, $270 million media-rights deal with CBS and Fox Sports. The package includes football and men's basketball games being aired, with Fox Sports having rights to the league's championship game.

"Craig has provided important leadership to the MWC since its inception," said UNLV President Keith Whitfield, who also serves as the vice chair of the conference board of directors. "We are stronger because of his work as we go forward into a quickly changing landscape in the NCAA and the College Football Playoff discussions."

Thompson said in a statement that his final priority was expansion of the College Football Playoff. A plan was recently announced for the playoffs to include 12 teams, which sets the stage for a multibillion-dollar tournament as soon as the 2024 season.

"I take considerable pride in my committed engagement to this effort over the past two-and-a-half decades and look forward to the finalization of those details in the coming months," Thompson said. "With CFP expansion accomplished and having invested almost a third of my life in the Mountain West, the time is now right for me to conclude my tenure and allow the Conference to continue its momentum under new leadership."

Before arriving at the Mountain West, Thompson served as the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.

Thompson spent 43 years in athletic administration and along the way served on numerous boards, including the CFP management committee. He just finished his second stretch as a member of the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee.