WED: ABQ City Council will relook at controlled encampments as injunction takes effect, + More
Albuquerque City Council will look at controlled encampments again as an injunction takes effect – Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
A court injunction is now in effect that prohibits the city of Albuquerque from throwing away the possessions of people living on the street. It also blocks the city from forcing people who are unhoused from public spaces unless it’s school property or the encampment blocks a public right of way, like sidewalks.
The Albuquerque Journal reports a Bernalillo County District Court judge ruled in September there were not enough shelter beds for all the unhoused people in the city. They totaled at least 2,400 at the beginning of this year, although advocates say the actual number is probably higher.
The city has asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to intervene against the injunction and for clarification about its scope. A spokesperson for the city said people are notified when officials ask them to vacate a public area, and that the city would increase shelter capacity as the injunction took effect.
Unhoused folks told the Journal they have lost identity documents and other valuables when city officials clear encampments.
The city council will consider a proposal at its November 8 meeting that would require staff to find locations and submit applications for three outdoor sanctioned encampments. The council passed a zoning code update last year allowing for the safe spaces, but then legislation was filed to prevent the city from accepting applications.
New Mexico sees first flu cases of the season - By Nash Jones, KUNM News
As the weather took a steep drop earlier this week, New Mexico reported its first cases of flu.
The state Department of Health says its Scientific Laboratory Division confirmed two infections, one in northern New Mexico and one in the south.
Secretary Patrick Allen said in a statement that the far reaching spread of the cases shows the department that the state is likely to confirm more cases in the coming weeks.
He recommended New Mexicans six months and older get their flu vaccine now while cases are low. He also encouraged people to get an updated COVID shot.
Deputy Secretary Laura Parajon clarified that while the vaccines for each respiratory virus won’t prevent a person from getting the virus, they will reduce how sick they get.
Reading and writing proficiency are up, while math fell among NM students - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
The New Mexico Public Education Department released long-awaited standardized test results Wednesday with mixed results.
The Albuquerque Journal reports reading and writing proficiency statewide rose about 4% from the prior school year.
Education Secretary Arsenio Romero called the change “significant,” adding that he feels confident the state can achieve double-digit gains next year.
However, math levels faltered a bit, sinking one percentage point.
Department officials argue this last school year was a stabilizing one, though forward momentum is crucial.
They pointed to teacher training around reading for the progress in that subject. They say they’re now developing training for math teachers.
N.M. housing nonprofit wins $3.5M federal grant to update energy efficiency in buildings - By Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico
A southern New Mexico nonprofit will receive a $3.5 million federal grant that will facilitate upgrades to their building and for other nonprofits to spend on making their buildings energy-efficient.
The Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation in Las Cruces is one of nine recipients of $45 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. The program picked nine “prime recipients” who will distribute funds, and manage any programs for smaller “subrecipient” nonprofits.
Tierra Del Sol manages low-income apartments and senior housing across southern New Mexico and far west Texas, provides temporary housing for farmworkers, and constructs low-income housing, according to theirwebsite.
Executive Director Rosa Garcia told Source NM that the nonprofit will provide funding to other nonprofits such as programs at Doña Ana Community College, New Mexico State University, faith groups and housing nonprofits in Arizona and Texas to upgrade a total of 17 buildings.
“Each one lays out specific improvements, and then each of us have to match it,” she said.
The money would be used in offices, or in the case of religious organizations, their parish halls or other facilities, Garcia said.
The $3.5 million grant will require a nearly $900,000 match from nonprofits, according tothe grant’s website.
Garcia said the organization was waiting on further details from the federal government on when the money will come down, or how much was approved for each organization.
Last year, the nonprofit received $1.6 million in earmarks from U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich for the planning and engineering costs to build 14 low-income entirely electric houses in Columbus, New Mexico.
Water projects in NM to receive $235M from Interior for tribal water fund settlements - Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last week the most recent batch of funding to help the federal government meet its requirement to pay tribal water rights settlements.
Out of the $326.5 million announced for nearly a dozen settlements and projects, $235.1 million will go to two water supply projects in New Mexico.
The bulk of the money coming into the state from the Interior Department and the largest allocation announced is $164 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. An additional $2 million in separate funds will also go toward operation and maintenance on the project.
Another $69.1 million will go toward the Aamodt Water Rights Settlement, a water claim and use agreement now under the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act that involves the Pueblos of Nambé, Pojoaque, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, Santa Fe County and the state of New Mexico.
NAVAJO-GALLUP WATER SUPPLY PROJECT NEEDS DEADLINE EXTENSION
The goal of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is to send an industrial and municipal water supply from the San Juan River to eastern parts of the Navajo Nation, the city of Gallup and southwestern parts of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, areas that largely depend on a depleting groundwater supply.
“The plan is to use the money to complete this critical project that will provide surface water to Gallup and surrounding communities,” Gallup Interim City Manager Jim DeYoung told Source NM.
Bart Deming, project construction engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said most of the $164 million will go toward the design and construction of a water treatment facility. He said his team is planning on awarding contracts next summer, which he said will also create new jobs in the area and put money into the local economy.
Some of the funds will also go toward other design and construction work, Deming added.
“We’re incredibly happy about the amount of money that the administration is putting towards the project, allowing us to continue meeting our goals towards the project completion,” he said.
Under a water settlement, the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is legally required to be finished at the end of 2024. Delays made that scenario impossible, forcing leaders and developers to push for an extension.
U.S. Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández and Melanie Stansbury are pushing for a bill introduced during the summer to push back the deadline. There’s been no movement on the legislation since.
In the meantime, Deming said the Navajo Nation, the state of New Mexico and the federal government are trying to extend the deadline on their own, which can happen with all of the entities’ approvals. He said the parties have informally agreed to an extension to 2029 and just need to sign an official agreement.
“Not knowing how quickly Congress will act, we need to get some of these extensions done now,” he said.
The total cost of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is about $1.996 billion, according to an Oct. 19 water rights settlement funds report from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.
From fiscal years 2010 to 2022, Congress has provided $1.195 billion in mandatory funding, the report says.
New Mexico has committed $50 million as of October 2022, according to the report.
Deming said it could take another month or two to receive the latest funding from the Interior.
MILLIONS FOR WATER AT FOUR PUEBLOS
The second-largest federal allocation the federal government announced is the Aamodt settlement at $69.1 million, which involves the Pueblos of Nambé, Pojoaque, Tesuque and San Ildefonso.
Under this settlement, the federal government is setting up a regional water system to serve both tribal and non-tribal members in the area, according to the Office of the State Engineer’s report.
Construction is ongoing, the report says, paid for by the federal government, New Mexico, Santa Fe County and the Pueblos involved in the settlement.
The total funding for the project is $406.3 million, according to the report, with $276.8 coming from the federal government, $104.5 coming from New Mexico and $38.4 million coming from Santa Fe County.
The third settlement New Mexico is involved in that’s currently being implemented is the Taos Pueblo settlement. It didn’t get Department of Interior funding for fiscal year 2024.
Attorney General sues property owners for blocking river access – KUNM, Santa Fe New Mexican
The state of New Mexico is suing a San Miguel property owner to protect what it says is the public’s constitutional right to access public streams and watercourses.
In a complaint filed in Fourth Judicial District Court Attorney General Raul Torrez argues Erik Briones and other unnamed participants have used threats of physical violence and obstructions like fences to prevent access to part of the Pecos that abuts his land.
The state is seeking a preliminary injunction against Briones and others to halt their actions, which Torrez argues violate a 2022 ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court protecting the public’s right to fish and recreate on and through rivers and water courses. That includes access to streams passing through privately owned land.
The Santa Fe New Mexicanreports despite the ruling, some landowners continue to put up water barriers that block access to their properties but also to adjacent public lands.
The complaint states Briones has threatened violence against people entering part of the river that abuts his property. He has also blocked access to the Pecos with fences using barbed wire and concertina wire. He has put up signs claiming parts of the river are privately owned, which the attorney general argues is false.
It was not immediately clear if Briones had an attorney to respond to the suit.
Aid without ceasefire in Gaza ‘illogical and impossible,’ protesters say - By Austin Fisher,Source New Mexico
A group of New Mexicans arrested last week while protesting the United States’ support for Israel’s bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip told New Mexico’s senators on Monday that without a full ceasefire, the humanitarian crisis there will only get worse.
Gaza’s health ministry has recorded more than 8,300 Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes since Oct. 7, including more than 3,000 children. More than 21,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been wounded so far.
No American political leader has defined how long such a pause would last, or which parts of Gaza it would cover. Source NM on Friday asked Stansbury and Heinrich to specify what they mean, but they have not yet responded.
Spokespeople for Rep. Gabe Vasquez and Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez have so far not responded to previous written requests for comment on calls for a ceasefire by congressional staffers.
52,000 pregnant people and more than 30,000 babies under 6 months of age are drinking brackish or contaminated water in Gaza, according to an internal U.S. State Department assessment published by Israel’s newspaper of record on Sunday.
Heinrich and New Mexico’s other senator, Ben Ray Luján on Friday “encouraged” the Biden administration to work with Israel, Egypt and the United Nations to ship fuel into Gaza “where it can be used immediately to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians.”
“We condemn Hamas’ horrific terrorist attacks against Israel, for which Israel must hold Hamas accountable,” the senators said. “In the course of that endeavor, every effort must be made to protect innocent civilians.”
But local peace advocates implied that senators’ language is weak and would result in a Band-Aid approach.
After an hours-long sit-in on Oct. 23 at the senators’ field offices in Albuquerque, police arrested nine demonstrators.
That group, now calling themselves the “Ceasefire 9,” issued a statement Monday pointing out the senators’ call for aid makes no mention of the siege on Gaza, the thousands of lives already lost, and the intensifying violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
“Our New Mexico representatives have an obligation to support their constituents’ demands and stand on the right side of history by endorsing a full ceasefire immediately,” the Ceasefire 9 wrote.
“While we appreciate that the Senators are aware that Israeli bombardment is causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, aid without a ceasefire is an illogical and impossible suggestion,” they wrote. “Fuel for hospitals to treat those injured because of the constant bombardment? A call to keep babies alive while nearly 3,000 Palestinian children have been killed? Fuel for generators to pump clean water so civilians can be hydrated when they are killed in airstrikes?”
The group added that they refuse the senators’ “attempt at sidestepping the real issue.”
The United Nations General Assembly on Friday passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a ceasefire by a vote of 120-14. In the U.S., 66% of American voters and 80% of Democrats are in favor of a ceasefire.
A representative for families of more than 220 hostages being held in Gaza urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to stop the airstrikes that could harm their relatives.
That same day, more than 1,000 people joined a protest led by Palestinian young people in Albuquerque calling for a ceasefire. According to the event’s organizers, it was the largest demonstration in New Mexico since Oct. 7.
“The current bombing campaign of Gazan people, as well as the decades-long occupation is funded by U.S. tax dollars and supported almost unilaterally by U.S. politicians, including those in our own state,” said Southwest Coalition for Palestine Chair Samia Assed. “We urge people and political leaders to support a ceasefire and stop the killing of innocent Gazans.”
U.S. Rep. Vasquez introduces border bills ahead of 2024 election - Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News
New Mexico U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez this week introduced a package of bills dealing with issues of security and immigration on the U.S./Mexico border. The move comes ahead of a likely 2024 rematch with his predecessor, Republican Yvette Herrell.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Vasquez called the measures “commonsense, bipartisan bills” at a press conference at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.
However, with a Republican-controlled U.S. House, and the GOP looking to unseat the first-year lawmaker, it’s unclear how far his proposals will get.
They include $570 million for personnel, technology and infrastructure at ports of entry. Vasquez called technological upgrades a “game changer” for efforts to slow drug trafficking.
Other acts in the package would aim to curb trafficking of children, lower residency barriers for those in certain specialized and understaffed fields, and protect people in immigration detention from inhumane conditions.
As economy falters, more Chinese migrants take a perilous journey to the US border to seek asylum - By Elliot Spagat and Didi Tang Associated Press
The young Chinese man looked lost and exhausted when Border Patrol agents left him at a transit station. Deng Guangsen, 28, had spent the last two months traveling to San Diego from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, through seven countries on plane, bus and foot, including traversing Panama's dangerous Darién Gap jungle.
"I feel nothing," Deng said in the San Diego parking lot, insisting on using the broken English he learned from "Harry Potter" movies. "I have no brother, no sister. I have nobody."
Deng is part of a major influx of Chinese migration to the United States on a relatively new and perilous route that has become increasingly popular with the help of social media. Chinese people were the fourth-highest nationality, after Venezuelans, Ecuadorians and Haitians, crossing the Darién Gap during the first nine months of this year, according to Panamanian immigration authorities.
Chinese asylum-seekers who spoke to The Associated Press, as well as observers, say they are seeking to escape an increasingly repressive political climate and bleak economic prospects.
They also reflect a broader presence of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border — Asians, South Americans and Africans — who made September the second-highest month of illegal crossings and the U.S. government's 2023 budget year the second-highest on record.
The pandemic and China's COVID-19 policies, which included tight border controls, temporarily stemmed the exodus that rose dramatically in 2018 when President Xi Jinping amended the constitution to scrap the presidential term limit. Now emigration has resumed, with China's economy struggling to rebound and youth unemployment high. The United Nations has projected China will lose 310,000 people through emigration this year, compared with 120,000 in 2012.
It has become known as "runxue," or the study of running away. The term started as a way to get around censorship, using a Chinese character whose pronunciation spells like the English word "run" but means "moistening." Now it's an internet meme.
"This wave of emigration reflects despair toward China," Cai Xia, editor-in-chief of the online commentary site of Yibao and a former professor at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.
"They've lost hope for the future of the country," said Cai, who now lives in the U.S. "You see among them the educated and the uneducated, white-collar workers, as well as small business owners, and those from well-off families."
Those who can't get a visa are finding other ways to flee the world's most populous nation. Many are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. The Border Patrol made 22,187 arrests of Chinese for crossing the border illegally from Mexico from January through September, nearly 13 times the same period in 2022.
Arrests of Chinese people peaked at 4,010 in September, up 70% from August to become the ninth-highest nationality at the U.S. border and the highest outside of Mexico, Central and South America. The vast majority were single adults.
The popular route to the U.S. is through Ecuador, which has no visa requirements for Chinese nationals. Migrants from China join Latin Americans there to trek north through the once-impenetrable Darién and across several Central American countries before reaching the U.S. border. The journey is well-known enough it has its own name in Chinese: walk the line, or "zouxian."
The monthly number of Chinese migrants crossing the Darién has been rising gradually, from 913 in January to 2,588 in September. For the first nine months of this year, Panamanian immigration authorities registered 15,567 Chinese citizens crossing the Darién. By comparison, 2,005 Chinese people trekked through the rainforest in 2022, and just 376 in total from 2010 to 2021.
Short video platforms and messaging apps provide not only on-the-ground video clips but also step-by-step guides from China to the U.S., including tips on what to pack, where to find guides, how to survive the jungle, which hotels to stay at, how much to bribe police in different countries and what to do when encountering U.S. immigration officers.
Translation apps allow migrants to navigate through Central America on their own, even if they don't speak Spanish or English. The journey can cost thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, paid for with family savings or even online loans.
It's markedly different from the days when Chinese nationals paid smugglers, known as snakeheads, and traveled in groups.
With more financial resources, Xi Yan, 46, and her daughter Song Siming, 24, didn't trek the Ecuador-Mexico route, but instead flew into Mexico via Europe. With help from a local guide, the two women crossed the border at Mexicali into the U.S. in April.
"The unemployment rate is very high. People cannot find work," said Xi Yan, a Chinese writer. "For small business owners, they cannot sustain their businesses."
Xi Yan said she decided to leave China in March, when she traveled to the southern city of Foshan to see her mother but had to leave the next day when state security agents and police officers harassed her brother and told him that his sister was not allowed in the city. She realized she was still on the state blacklist, six years after being detained for gathering at a seaside spot to remember Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel peace laureate who died in a Chinese prison. In 2015, she was locked up for 25 days over an online post remembering the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
Her daughter, Song, agreed to leave with her. A college graduate, the daughter struggled to find work in China and became depressed, the mother said.
Despite the challenges to survive in the U.S., Xi Yan said it was worth it.
"We have freedom," she said. "I used to get nervous whenever there was a police car. Now, I don't have to worry about it anymore."
Migrants hoping to enter the U.S. at San Diego wait for agents to pick them up in an area between two border walls or in remote mountains east of the city covered with shrubs and large boulders.
Many migrants are released with court dates in cities nearest their final destination in a bottlenecked system that takes years to decide cases. Chinese migrants had an asylum grant rate of 33% in the 2022 budget year, compared with 46% for all nationalities, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Catholic Charities of San Diego uses hotels to provide shelters for migrants, including 1,223 from China in September. The average shelter stay is a day and a half among all nationalities. For Chinese visitors, it's less than a day.
"They get dropped off in the morning. By afternoon they are looking to reunite with their families. They're going to New York, they're going to Chicago, they're going to all kinds of places," said Vino Pajanor, the group's chief executive. "They don't want to be in a shelter."
In September, 98% of U.S. border arrests of Chinese people occurred in the San Diego area. At the transit stop, migrants charge phones, snack, browse piles of free clothing and get travel advice.
Signs at portable bathrooms and information booths and a volunteer's loudspeaker announcements about free airport shuttles are translated to multiple languages, including Mandarin. Taxi drivers offer rides to Los Angeles.
Many migrants who spoke to the AP did not give their full names out of fear of drawing attention to their cases. Some said they came for economic reasons and paid 300,000 to 400,000 yuan ($41,000 to $56,000 for the trip).
In recent weeks, Chinese migrants have filled makeshift encampments in the California desert as they wait to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities to make asylum claims.
Near the small town of Jacumba, hundreds huddled in the shadow of a section of border wall and under crude tarps. Others tried to sleep on large boulders or under the few trees there. Small campfires keep them warm overnight. Without food or running water, the migrants rely on volunteers who distribute bottled water, hot oatmeal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Chen Yixiao said he endured a hard journey to come to the U.S. He said life had become difficult back home, with some migrants experiencing issues with the government and others failing in business.
"I'm very happy to be in the U.S. now. This is my dream country," said Chen, who planned to join his relatives in New York and find work there.
At San Diego's transit station, Deng planned to head to Monterey Park, a Los Angeles suburb that became known as "Little Taipei" in the 1980s. Deng said he worked a job in Guangdong requiring him to ride motorcycles, which he considered unsafe. As he lingered at the transit station, sitting on a curb with his small backpack, several Africans approached to ask questions. He told them he arrived in the U.S. with $880 in his pockets.
When he didn't provide the Border Patrol with a U.S. address, an agent scheduled an initial immigration court appearance for him in New York in February. Deng tapped his meager savings for a one-way flight to New York. He ended up with thousands of other migrants at a tent shelter on the city's Randall's Island, unsure of his next move.
Tang reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Christopher Sherman in Mexico City and Eugene Garcia in San Diego contributed to this report.