WED: The NM constitution is the focus of a legal fight over oil and gas drilling, + More
New Mexico constitution focus of legal fight over oil and gas drilling - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
New Mexico and its Democratic governor are being sued over alleged failures to meet constitutional provisions for protecting against oil and gas pollution, a challenge that comes as the nation's No. 2 oil-producing state rides a wave of record revenue from drilling in one of the most prolific collection of oil fields in the world.
A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday in state district court, marking the first time the state constitution's pollution-control clause has been the basis of such a legal claim. The 1971 amendment mandates that New Mexico prevent the despoilment of air, water and other natural resources.
The challenge comes as New Mexico rides a wave of record revenue from development in the Permian Basin, currently one of the world's most productive oil-producing regions. Oil-related revenue collections have surged passed five-year averages to fund a considerable amount of the state's budget, including education and social programs.
Meanwhile, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration is policing the industry with regulations that target methane and other emissions. The goal is capturing 98% of all natural gas waste by the end of 2026, and drilling permits could be denied if operators fail to meet targets.
But the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups say these efforts are not enough and that the state is failing to enforce existing pollution-control measures.
They want oil and gas permitting to be suspended until the state implements "a statutory, regulatory and enforcement scheme that ensures the protection of New Mexico's beautiful and healthful environment," the lawsuit reads.
Lujan Grisham's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. Leaders of the state's energy and environment agencies also are named as defendants.
The plaintiffs include the groups Indigenous Lifeways, Pueblo Action Alliance, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action and WildEarth Guardians.
The Pueblo Action Alliance is among the Native American groups that have been pushing for the U.S. Interior Department to stop drilling across a wide swath of land beyond the borders of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico. Energy industry organizations have argued that the group is not in good standing with the Secretary of State's Office.
Efforts to stop oil and gas development in the Chaco area and in southeastern New Mexico have mostly been fought in federal court, with U.S. land management policies being the focus. Recent claims have centered on the Bureau of Land Management and whether the agency has been taking a cumulative look at the potential effects of permitting more wells.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday details the experiences of Navajo families in northwestern New Mexico, reciting many of the complaints that have been leveled previously in the fight over development outside of Chaco.
Concerns about the preservation of lands considered culturally significant by some Navajos and more distant pueblo communities are outlined in the lawsuit.
The groups and individual plaintiffs claim that the gathering of medicinal and ceremonial herbs is at risk from ground disturbance by developers and subsequent erosion. They also say the ability to enjoy their ancestral homelands is being compromised.
In southeastern New Mexico, plaintiffs point to truck traffic and poor air quality from the emissions of trucks, generators, compressors and other equipment running continuously in the oil fields.
New Mexico's pollution-control clause was adopted after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1971, the same year state lawmakers adopted other environmental protection measures. At the time, the modern environmental movement was taking shape nationally.
While New Mexico's clause has been on the books for nearly 50 years, lawyers for the plaintiffs say it has never been tested.
Gail Evans, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead counsel on the case, called it a fundamental human right to have clean air, land and water.
"If concern for our environment and public health won't push New Mexico's leaders to control the reckless oil and gas industry, we hope legal action will," she said.
‘Our communities cannot wait any longer’: NM delegation rips FEMA on delays in fire payments - By Patrick Lohman, Source New Mexico
Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation on Wednesday sent a letter to top officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, criticizing the agency for delays in distributing several billion dollars to those who are still struggling to recover from the biggest wildfire in state history.
FEMA has opened field offices and is reaching out to victims of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire, ignited by the United States Forest Service as two botched prescribed burns. FEMA is tasked with paying out $3.95 billion in aid approved by Congress late last year.
But the agency has missed several self-imposed deadlines in making the payments, which are intended to fully compensate victims for the federal government’s errors more than a year ago. And FEMA has not yet established final rules that will govern what compensation will cover.
FEMA initially said it expected the claims office to be “fully operational” in early 2023. But the agency has so far not issued a single payment to households affected by the fire or ensuing floods, and it has declined to say publicly when it expects the rules to be finalized.
The delays have frustrated members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation who secured the $3.95 billion late last year. U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez and Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján sent a letter urging FEMA to move faster and to provide an update to the delegation on where the claims office stands.
“Our communities cannot wait any longer,” the members of Congress wrote in the letter. “Every day that passes without compensation to the victims delays their ability to begin rebuilding after losing so much. We ask that you put yourself into the shoes of those who’ve waited more than a year after the fire started.”
FEMA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the letter. But the agency previously announced that it will make partial payments to fire victims while awaiting the approval of final rules, and it has hired a team of navigators from New Mexico to assist people making claims.
Claims Office Director Angela Gladwell told a packed lecture hall in Mora last month that federal rulemaking is difficult and time-consuming. The rules must be approved by FEMA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget, she said.
“And they need to prioritize it across all of the rules in the federal government,” she said at the meeting April 19. “We are working with those partners as much as possible to expedite that process.”
The letter said FEMA has told the New Mexico delegation that delays are due to bureaucratic wrangling on a couple of rules that have sparked anger among fire survivors, including one that caps payments for destroyed trees at 25% of their pre-fire value.
That rule was copy-pasted from the last time a federal agency botched a prescribed burn in New Mexico and then sought to compensate those who lost their homes. The Cerro Grande Fire Assistance Act in 2001 was enacted after an escaped National Park Service prescribed burn near Los Alamos destroyed hundreds of homes, many of them in suburban neighborhoods.
FEMA officials have acknowledged that the cap on payments for trees is not well-suited for victims of the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon wildfire, who rely on trees and timber for income and heat, and often comprise the biggest losses for many rural families with hundreds or thousands of acres of private forest. They’ve also suggested the cap will be lifted in the final rules.
They included the cap on tree payments as they rushed to meet the congressional deadline of 45 days to publish interim rules, FEMA officials said. It would have taken months, they explained, to write a completely new set of rules and so chose to use the previous set as a template.
The delegation’s letter to FEMA asked the agency to eliminate the cap on payments for trees, as well as a limit on payments to households who spent money reducing future risk of floods and wildfires on their property. And to do it quickly.
“It is a holdover from a different catastrophe impacting suburban homes, not an economy based on forest,” the members of Congress wrote. “We reiterate the importance of removing these caps.”
FEMA did not respond to a question about whether any specific interim rules are to blame for delays in final rule approval.
The agency received at least 300 public comments and held six meetings between mid-November and early January to solicit feedback on the interim rules. Dozens of those comments took issue primarily with limited payments for trees.
Delays have “deepened mistrust” with the agency, the letter states. Many residents are already frustrated by FEMA delays and denials in its immediate response to the disaster, including with the rollout of its program to house survivors in FEMA trailers or mobile homes.
“The victims don’t have permanent homes,” the members of Congress wrote. “Their economic livelihood is destroyed, and the floods will begin making matters worse.”
Technical error forces delay in announcing NM community solar program project winners - By Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico
A technical error discovered this week caused another delay to the state’s community solar program that aims to establish community solar facilities around the state and give New Mexicans a break on their utility bills.
On Tuesday, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission responded to a complaint filed by Massachusetts-based Lightstar Renewables, one of hundreds of entities seeking permission to build and operate solar farms in the state as part of the community solar program.
Lightstar Renewables filed a complaint to the PRC about an error it found caused by the company InClime — the party responsible for ranking project requests from those who want to build out community solar infrastructure.
The PRC received Lightstar’s emergency complaint one day before InClime intended to announce who gets to set up and run solar farms, as decided by the company’s review process.
The PRC responded by ruling that there was a technical error in the proposal application.
That issue caused InClime, which has reviewed more than 400 project proposals and bids since February, to incorrectly score some of the entities that applied and bid to be part of the community solar program, potentially making them lose out on the opportunity.
PRC spokesperson Patrick Rodriguez said InClime has to rescore 32 applications by May 16, which is when the company said it’ll announce awardees, a week after the original date.
Miana Campbell is InClime’s community solar lead for New Mexico. During Tuesday’s special PRC meeting, she explained the technical error stemmed from InClime ranking applicants based off of two different measures that a licensed engineer approved proposed permitting plans.
Only one approval measure was necessary, according to Lightstar’s complaint. The PRC agreed, forcing InClime to delay the award announcement.
“Although the final scores are delayed, we are thrilled to announce that we expect awards for its program to go out next week,” Campbell said.
She said InClime’s goal is to announce what organizations get to participate as quickly as possible.
“We understand that many of you are eagerly awaiting the results and we appreciate your patience,” she said.
The process to set up New Mexico’s community solar program has been stalled since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the act, partly due to utilities fighting in court community solar rules that the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission set up.
Litigation is still ongoing.
The latest delay comes after months of back-and-forth between the PRC and utilities. The PRC repeatedly found issues with the investor-owned utilities’ involvement, and former commissioner Joseph Maestas voiced frustration at utility companies’ attempts to seemingly “obstruct and delay community solar.”
HOLDING THE SOLAR OPERATORS ACCOUNTABLE
Entities that applied and bid through InClime to be part of New Mexico’s community solar program proposed commitments that would be beneficial to the nearby communities, like working with local or minority-owned businesses or offering workforce training or educational opportunities.
PRC Commissioner Patrick O’Connell asked how InClime would hold the chosen solar operators accountable to these commitments. He questioned if the commitments the applicants proposed are unambiguous and easy to measure, and Campbell said most of them are pretty black and white.
For example, she said, applicants who would be committed to working with a local or diverse business clearly laid out how they would do that, so it would be pretty straightforward for InClime to track that.
However, not everything will be that simple, she added.
She said other commitments could be less objective.
She brought up another example, where an operator committed to creating educational opportunities and developed something like program materials for local universities, which could be interpreted subjectively.
“That’s something we did try to distill as much as possible too — this is what they’re committing to, and this is the timeline that they’re committing to,” she said.
O’Connell also had questions about what would happen if the chosen solar operators can’t meet the commitments they said they would.
“Hopefully this process works fantastically and the projects that we pick are all delivered exactly along the commitments,” he said. But, he continued, what if it doesn’t work out perfectly?
Campbell said concrete disciplinary measures still need to be worked out. She said the rules now do lay out that InClime can take disciplinary action if commitments aren’t being adhered to, including kicking operators out of the program, but it’s still pretty vague.
“I think that’s something that we’ll have to think about a little bit more in-depth,” she said.
She also said that it would be unfortunate if operators built their solar farms just to get kicked out of the program.
US will let in at least 100,000 Latin Americans to reunite with families - By Julie Watson Associated Press
As President Joe Biden's administration prepares for the end of asylum restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is offering some new legal options for people — especially families — to come to the United States.
The administration said it will admit at least 100,000 Latin Americans seeking to reunite with family members in the United States, but it has released almost no details. The plan was announced as restrictions tied to a public health law, known as Title 42, were set to expire Thursday.
A look at the new legal pathway for Latin Americans to join their relatives in the United States:
HOW WOULD PEOPLE APPLY?
During a recent visit to the border city of Brownsville, Texas, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said people would apply for permission to join their families in the United States at regional processing centers. The government plans to open 100 such hubs across the Western Hemisphere, with the first ones starting in Guatemala and Colombia.
The centers will handle requests for family reunification parole, Mayorkas said, along with applications for the U.S. refugee program and humanitarian parole for those deemed to be particularly vulnerable, which is decided on a case-by-case basis.
WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE?
The new family reunification parole program is for immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and who have gotten approval for their petitions to bring over immediate family members.
The U.S. government said eligible people will receive an invitation to participate. The government will provide advance travel authorization for individuals who are approved and people will be eligible to apply for authorization to work in the United States while they wait for their immigrant visas.
The administration said more information will be released in mid-June.
It's unclear if there will be age restrictions. Generally immigrants and refugees in the U.S. have been allowed to petition only for immediate family members, such as a spouse or child. To be considered a child, the person must be unmarried and under 21 years of age. All other family members such as siblings, cousins and adult children are not eligible for family reunion.
Immigration attorneys say some immigrants have been waiting for years to be reunited with their spouses and children.
It's unclear why the administration has said it intends to welcome as many as 100,000 people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador under the family reunification parole processes.
Julia Gelatt of the Migration Policy Center said U.S. State Department data shows at least 284,000 Latin Americans have filed family sponsorship petitions. That includes 78,000 Salvadorans, and up to 57,000 Hondurans, 58,000 Guatemalans, and 56,000 Colombians.
But it's unclear if those waiting have since found other options, she said.
Immigration attorney Sarah Gavigan, who works at the Central American Resource Center or Carecen in San Francisco, also wondered if the 100,000 reflects the actual number of backlogged family petitions from those countries.
Gavigan applauded the creation of a new family reunification program, while criticizing other Biden administration rules that she says penalize people fleeing harm who go to the border to apply for asylum.
WILL IT MIRROR OTHER HUMANITARIAN PROGRAMS OFFERED RECENTLY?
Immigration attorneys believe the new family reunification parole program is the latest effort of a model that started when the United States brought in 100,000 Ukrainians following Russia's 2022 invasion of the country.
The program required Ukrainians to apply online, have a financial backer and enter through an airport, while officials turned back Ukrainians who arrived on foot at the U.S. border.
After that effort was successful, the administration in January extended humanitarian parole to other people fleeing their homelands and who were showing up at the U.S. border in record numbers. In January, the government announced it would bring in up to 30,000 people each month from four nations: Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti.
Mayorkas said after those legal options were put into place, the government saw a 95% drop in the number of encounters U.S. border officials had with migrants of those four nationalities.
Most of the parole programs allow in people for a limited time, but attorneys say people permitted to come to the U.S. for family reunification can apply for permanent residency.
ARE PLANS UNDERWAY TO HELP MORE FAMILIES REUNITE?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced it is restarting and broadening family reunification parole programs for Haitians and Cubans to allow vetted individuals with already approved family-based petitions to be allowed into the United States, on a case-by-case basis. The government said the program would be for the immediate family members of Haitian and Cuban immigrants in the United States. The government will invite people to participate.
It's unclear if the government plans to eliminate the need for a consular interview. Allen Orr Jr., who has worked extensively with Haitians applying for parole, said that would be key since most Haitians cannot get to interviews at the U.S. embassy due to the country's instability and widespread violence.
Orr called the efforts an important step in the right direction. But he said comprehensive immigration reform from Congress is ultimately needed to solve the problem.
"It's wonderful, but it's very much a bucket emptying the ocean," he said. "It's not a sweeping thing that is going to modify the amount of people showing up at the border. It gives the administration another lever, but it isn't going to overall change the immigration system."
WHAT DO CRITICS SAY?
Immigration attorney Curtis Morrison said only time will tell if the administration makes good on its promise.
His firm represents 3,000 people who have have applied for similar family reunification parole programs in the Middle East and Asia, and have ended up waiting years. The process was supposed to take six to nine months, he said.
Part of the problem, he said, is a lack of government staff able to process the applications.
"I have a hard time taking the Biden administration seriously when they talk about expanding family reunification programs," he said.
Under the current wait time, a father who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder and is trying to bring over his wife and baby from a country like Pakistan might not be reunited with them until the child is entering kindergarten, he said.
Half of US West out of drought, but not fully recovered - By Brittany Peterson Associated Press
Nearly half of the U.S. West has emerged from drought this spring, but the welcome wet conditions haven't entirely replenished the region, scientists said Tuesday.
Hydrologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said deep snowpack across much of the West will bring short-term relief, but the equally deep "bathtub rings" at Lake Powell and Lake Mead reservoirs are a reminder of the long road to bringing supply and demand in balance.
This winter brought bountiful and persistent snow from the Sierra Nevada to the Rocky Mountains, stranding residents in their homes while setting accumulation records and pulling a large swath of the region out of drought. The quantity of precipitation is impressive, but the fact that snow stuck around this late in the season is perhaps more rare, said Joseph Casola, NOAA's western regional climate services director.
"With climate warming, the odds for such a long-lived anomaly of cold over a large area like the West — the odds for that just go down and down," Casola said.
A continued slow melt helps reduce danger of flooding and delays the onset of the worst wildfire danger in the region. Meanwhile, all that rain and snow means California can provide 100% of the water requested by cities and farms for the first time in years, and is flooding farmland with surplus runoff to replenish precious groundwater.
The big question is how much relief this winter's snow will bring to the Colorado River, which has been depleted by climate change, rising demand and overuse.
A May 1 forecast by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center said up to 11 million acre-feet of water, or 172% of average, could flow into Lake Powell, a massive reservoir that stores Colorado River water for Arizona, Nevada, California, Mexico and dozens of tribes. That amount could be less depending on how much water the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spreads among upstream reservoirs.
According to the Bureau's 24-month operating plan, Lake Powell could rise to around 3,590 feet by mid-summer, up 60 feet from its current state. That's a level that hasn't been seen since 2020.
The robust winter takes some pressure off the system and gives states a bit more room to reach an agreement on how to implement water cuts, said Jennifer Pitt of the National Audubon Society, who is working to restore rivers throughout the basin.
As Lake Powell and Lake Mead hit record low levels last summer, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation told states they would need to cut their water use by 15% to 30%. Those cuts are still being negotiated, while federal officials consider holding back more water at the major dams.
"If everybody plays a part in solving the problem and we don't place the problem entirely on any one user or one sector or one geography, then by spreading the pain, maybe it hurts a little less all the way around," Pitt said.
US regulators OK spent nuclear fuel facility in New Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
U.S. nuclear regulators licensed a multibillion-dollar complex to temporarily store tons of spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico from commercial power plants around the nation, a decision likely to be challenged in court.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued its decision Tuesday, saying it will allow the energy company Holtec International to build and operate the facility in southeastern New Mexico. New Jersey-based Holtec may still need to acquire permits from the state, and top New Mexico officials have vowed to fight the project.
Hot and highly radioactive, spent fuel consists of uranium pellets inside metal rods. It can only be handled by machines and people have to be physically shielded from it, usually by steel or concrete.
The New Mexico project would have capacity to temporarily store up to 8,680 metric tons of used uranium fuel. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters over six decades. The material would be transported to New Mexico via rail.
Critics say most would be brought from East Coast sites, prompting concern after recent railway accidents involving other chemicals and cargo.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state's congressional delegation say they fear New Mexico will become the nation's dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel because the federal government has no permanent solution for the waste piling up at commercial reactors around the country.
New Mexico approved legislation in March aimed at stopping the project.
"Today's actions by the NRC illustrate the importance of New Mexico's new prohibition on the storage and disposal of high-level nuclear waste. It's time that our voice be heard and honored, and that this project be shut down," said state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, a Democrat who sponsored the measure.
Holtec has argued that the New Mexico measure is pre-empted by federal law and that a court fight would only delay the economic boon that would come from building the complex. The company has spent an estimated $80 million pursuing the 40-year license to build and operate the facility.
"This milestone is the culmination of an eight-year process to bring a safe, secure, temporary and retrievable private facility to help the nation's spent fuel storage dilemma," Holtec said in a statement thanking regulators.
Company officials and some elected leaders from southeastern New Mexico have been pushing hard to offer what they call a temporary solution to the nation's problem of spent nuclear fuel. Commercial nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, with most of it remaining at the sites that produce it because there's nowhere else to put it. Commercial reactors have generated about 90,000 metric tons of spent fuel since the 1950s. If all of it were stacked together, the agency said the material could fit on a single football field at a depth of less than 10 yards (9 meters).
Since the federal government has failed to build a permanent repository, it reimburses utilities to house the fuel in either steel-lined concrete pools of water or in steel and concrete containers known as casks at sites in nearly three dozen states. The cost of that practice is expected to stretch into the tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.
Kevin Kamps, a radioactive waste specialist with the watchdog group Beyond Nuclear, said transporting highly radioactive waste is inherently high risk and that the casks would be among the heaviest loads on roads, rails and waterways.
"They would test the structural integrity of badly degraded rails, for example, risking derailments," he said.
Holtec officials have disputed those claims, saying testing has shown the casks used to hold spent fuel would not release radiation even in the event of a derailment.
President Joe Biden has received dueling letters from project supporters and from Lujan Grisham as well as others who oppose it. The administration has acknowledged the role nuclear power will have to play in reaching its carbon emission goals, and earlier this year put up $26 million in grants for communities interested in studying potential of hosting interim storage sites.
Similar battles over what to do with the spent fuel have been waged in Nevada, Utah and Texas over the decades as the U.S. has struggled to find a home for the material and other radioactive waste. The proposed Yucca Mountain project in Nevada was mothballed and a temporary storage site planned on a Native American reservation in Utah was sidelined despite being licensed by the NRC in 2006.
Elected leaders in Texas were unsuccessful in keeping the NRC from licensing a similar project in 2021. The site at the center of that fight is near the Texas-New Mexico border, where Integrated Storage Partners LLC plans to store up to 5,000 metric tons (5,512 tons) of spent fuel and about 230 metric tons of low-level radioactive waste for 40 years. Future phases could boost that capacity to 40,000 metric tons of fuel.
What is Title 42 and how has US used it to curb migration? - By Rebecca Santana Associated Press
This week marks the end of coronavirus restrictions on asylum that have allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants at the southern border for the last three years.
The restrictions are often referred to as Title 42, because the authority comes from Title 42 of a 1944 public health law that allows curbs on migration in the name of protecting public health.
The end of Title 42's use has raised questions about what will happen with migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Biden administration is preparing for an increase in migrants.
A look at what Title 42 is and why it matters:
HOW DID IT START?
In March 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order limiting migration, saying it was necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Schools and businesses were closing their doors and hospitals were filling with patients. President Donald Trump was looking for ways to curtail immigration — his signature political issue.
The order authorized Customs and Border Protection to immediately remove migrants, including people seeking asylum. The order said areas where migrants were held often weren't designed to quarantine people or for social distancing.
The Biden administration initially continued the policy. While many Democrats pushed President Joe Biden to overturn it, some — especially in border states — have advocated keeping it, saying the U.S. is unprepared for an increase in asylum-seekers.
Title 42 has been used more than 2.8 million times to expel migrants since its implementation. However, children traveling alone were exempt. Also, it has been unevenly enforced by nationality, partly because it's harder to expel people to some countries, including Venezuela and Cuba.
WHY IS IT ENDING?
The Biden administration announced in January that it was ending the national emergencies linked to the pandemic. That also spelled the end of using Title 42 to deal with immigration. Thursday is the last day Title 42 is expected to be used.
This isn't the first time its use has come close to expiring. The CDC announced in April 2022 that the rule was no longer needed because vaccines and treatments were more widespread. Republican-leaning states sued to keep it in place.
While it seems likely that Title 42 will go away this week, last-minute legal maneuverings that keep it in place are always possible.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Starting Friday, asylum-seekers will be interviewed by immigration officers. Those who are found to have a "credible fear" of being persecuted in their home countries can stay in the U.S. until a final determination is made.
That can take years. While some people are detained while their asylum process plays out, the vast majority are freed into the United States with notices to appear in immigration court or report to immigration authorities.
One key concern is that migrants might feel they have a greater chance now to get asylum in the U.S. so more will attempt to enter and overwhelm authorities' ability to care for and process them. That could take U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents away from other responsibilities such as looking for smugglers and facilitating the billions of dollars of trade that crosses the southern border.
Already some locations along the U.S.-Mexico border are seeing greater numbers of migrants. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said on Twitter on Monday that his agents had stopped about 8,800 migrants a day over a three-day period. That was up from about 5,200 a day in March and at a clip to smash the December tally, the highest month on record.
Others have argued that no one really knows how many people will try to enter the U.S. They note that people expelled under Title 42 face no consequences, so some have tried to enter repeatedly.
DOES THE U.S. HAVE A PLAN?
The U.S. says yes. Critics say no.
The federal government has said that it has spent more than a year getting ready. It expects more migrants will be coming initially.
The Biden administration's strategy has hinged on providing more legal pathways for migrants to get to the U.S. without coming directly to the border. That includes setting up centers in foreign countries where migrants can apply to emigrate as well as a humanitarian parole process already in place with 30,000 slots a month for people from four countries to come to the U.S.
The U.S. is expanding appointments available through an app called CBP One, which allows migrants to schedule a time to present themselves at a border crossing to request permission to enter.
There also are consequences. The U.S. is proposing a rule that would generally deny asylum to migrants who first travel through another country. It also wants to quickly screen migrants seeking asylum at the border and deport those deemed not qualified, and deny reentry for five years for those who are deported.
Republicans have lambasted the administration, saying the U.S. isn't doing enough to secure the border.
On Monday, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs called on the White House to deliver more funds for border communities as well as a satisfactory plan to deal with any increase in migrants. Hobbs is a Democrat, like the president.
Civil rights groups have other concerns. They have compared the severe limits on migrants who come through a third country to actions taken by Trump. They also said the plan to process asylum claims quickly at the border is not fair to migrants who have just arrived from a long, perilous journey.
Illinois trooper shot, motorist dead in exchange of gunfire - Associated Press
A New Mexico motorist was killed early Tuesday and a state trooper was wounded in an exchange of gunfire along an interstate highway in southern Illinois, police said.
Illinois State Police said a trooper stopped about 3 a.m. along Interstate 64 to assist a stranded motorist on the right shoulder of eastbound lanes. The officer encountered motorist Brandon L. Griffin, 23, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a female passenger.
After a second state trooper arrived, state police said, "an altercation occurred during which gunfire was exchanged between Griffin and a responding officer."
Griffin was pronounced dead at the scene, while a 16-year veteran trooper was shot and wounded and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
The other trooper and the female passenger were not injured, police said.
The shooting happened near Mt. Vernon, the Jefferson County seat, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis, closing the interstate's eastbound lanes for more than three hours.
State police said the agency's internal investigators are handling the case, and no additional details would be released. Once state police complete its investigation the findings and evidence will be submitted to the Jefferson County State's Attorney's Office for review, police said.