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TUES: Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy, + More

U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M.
Mariam Zuhaib
U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M.

Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy - By Susan Dunlap, New Mexico Political Report

U.S. Rep. Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez, a Democrat who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, cosponsored a resolution on Monday calling out Republicans for inaction on border policy.

The resolution says that comprehensive border immigration reform has not been updated since 1986 and that the right to seek asylum is a central pillar in the U.S. immigration system. It further urges cooperation among jurisdictions and says that the U.S. should fully fund resources for immigration, including asylum officers, immigration judges, security personnel and technology needs.

Vasquez, along with the resolution cosponsor U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas, a Democrat representing Oregon, held a press conference on Monday to talk about why there is a need for bipartisan comprehensive border legislation. Salinas said the 2024 presidential election is playing a role in that inaction.

Vasquez said he believes that despite 2024 being an election year, bipartisan border policy is still possible.

“There’s a group in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who are tired of the inaction on these issues,” he said during the press conference.

He said he’s seen a lot of misinformation on border policy and that “we need folks who can come to the table in a real way.”

He said reform would help local economies by filling gaps in the workforce in fields such as nursing, education, infrastructure and farm work. He said moderate Republicans need to be able to negotiate without “fear of retribution by their own party.”

He said that within the Democratic caucus in Congress, members have the opportunity to discuss what is negotiable on these issues.

“I’m not sure they’re having that on the Republican caucus side,” he said. “Hopefully, this resolution will be a wakeup call.”

Last week, Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales introduced a resolution into the House of Representatives condemning President Joe Biden for what he called “the administration’s failure to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders.”

Republicans have criticized Vasquez and Democrats over immigration issues. Vasquez is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democrats in this year’s elections.

Vasquez also highlighted a package of immigration bills he introduced last year at the Port of Santa Teresa. Those bills include a pathway to permanent legal status in the U.S., a measure to hold immigrant detention centers accountable, an investment in technology to improve the inspection of goods entering the U.S. and a bill to increase penalties for trafficking across the border.

“We can negotiate with Republicans on [border policy] issues,” Vasquez said.

Former transport officer sentenced to 30 years for raping NM detainee and others - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

A former prisoner transport officer for a private company has been sentenced to 30 years for raping multiple women who were detained awaiting trial. One of the survivors was being transported from Santa Fe, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The Office of U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez announced Tuesday that Marquet Johnson will also serve five years of supervised release and must register as a sex offender.

Johnson previously admitted to raping a woman who was detained pending trial while transporting her from New Mexico to Colorado in 2019. Johnson worked for Inmate Services Corporation, driving people arrested elsewhere back to the state that issued their warrant.

According to the announcement, while stopped at a New Mexico gas station, Johnson threatened the woman with a “dangerous weapon” while sexually assaulting her in the back of the van after his partner stepped away.

Uballez’s Office says Johnson also admitted to raping two more women detained pending trial in other states while transporting them that same year.

Uballez said in a statement that “criminal defendants have a right to be treated with dignity,” and that a badge will not shield officers from justice who abuse their positions.

The FBI Albuquerque Field Office and Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office investigated the case.

Meow Wolf to cut 165 jobs across four states — Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

In spite of recent expansions and plans to grow even more, Meow wolf will be letting go of 165 employees tomorrow across four states, the largest cut of employees for the company since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Albuquerque Journal reports no official number has been given for how many employees will be cut from their Santa Fe location, the House of Eternal Return.

In an internal email, CEO Jose Tolorosa says the cuts are part of a company-wide reorganization to reduce expenses by 10% in order to “right size the business” and fund future growth.

The exhibition and corporate team will lose 111 employees, and 54 employees will be cut from the bargaining unit based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to the Santa Fe and Las Vegas sites, Meow Wolf has locations in Denver and Grapevine, Texas, with plans to open in Houston later this year.

In April of 2020, the company laid off 201 employees, forcing them to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to collect severance packages.

Suspect arrested after allegedly killing a man at a northern New Mexico rest stop, stealing cars - Associated Press

A suspect has been arrested after allegedly killing a man at a northern New Mexico rest area, stealing a vehicle at knifepoint and leading state police on a car chase, authorities said Tuesday.

Police said 21-year-old Dorien Ray was arrested Monday on suspicion of numerous charges including first-degree murder, armed robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle.

Ray allegedly was driving a car reported stolen from Aurora, Colorado, when he stopped around 7 a.m. at a rest stop in Colfax County south of Raton.

Ray is accused of fatally stabbing a 79-year-old man while the victim's wife was in the bathroom, State Police said.

The Colorado couple was headed to Arizona before Ray drove off in their car.

The woman told police that the vehicle was gone when she came out of the bathroom, and her husband was on the ground covered in blood.

A State Police officer spotted the stolen vehicle on Interstate 25 in San Miguel County, and Ray was arrested after the pursuit ended.

Ray is from McComb, Mississippi, according to a criminal complaint.

Ray did not have an attorney assigned to his case as of Tuesday. But authorities said he should have a public defender at his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

New Mexico sees drop in immigrants making it an outlierAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM News

New Mexico is the only state in the country to experience a decrease in its immigrant population over the last decade.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau found that the number of people born outside the country rose to more than 45 million between 2018 and 2022. That’s nearly 14% of the U.S. population.

In New Mexico, 9.3% of people were born in other countries — down from almost 10% in 2010.

University of New Mexico Associate Professor Loren Colling-wood told the Journal it’s more likely the immigrant population has held constant, given the state’s small population and the margin of error. But, he added, the economy here is not as strong as California and Texas.

Chris Erickson, director of the Center for Border Economic Development at New Mexico State University, said the number of undocumented immigrants may have been under-reported. Many undocumented people may not want to talk to census workers. But, he added, the numbers here also reflect an economy with less disposable income compared to the national average.

City plans to install 50 pallet homes at former MVD site - By Damon Scott, City Desk ABQ

In a close vote, the Albuquerque City Council agreed to allocate about a fifth of the opioid settlement funds the city has received so far toward developing a transitional recovery housing campus featuring pallet homes.

The $5 million allocation passed in a 5-4 vote at an April 16 meeting.Councilors Joaquín Baca, Klarissa Peña, Brook Bassan, Nichole Rogers and Dan Champine voted in the affirmative. Councilors Tammy Fiebelkorn, Louie Sanchez, Dan Lewis and Renée Grout voted against the measure.

The city’s planned campus would include 50 pallet homes to be used for temporary housing and treatment for those experiencing addiction and homelessness. The site is located at 3401 Pan American Freeway NE just north of Candelaria Road — a former state Motor Vehicle Division site. City officials said Bernalillo County allocated another $800,000 in funds for the project.

City officials and advocates say the demand for transitional recovery housing — sometimes referred to as sober living housing — is critical. Many in need of such services end up at already strained overnight shelters that don’t offer addiction treatment — such as the city’s Westside Emergency Housing Center.

Pallet homes, or shelters, are typically 8-by-8 foot units that are prefabricated and shipped on a pallet. The city said the homes would be occupied by individuals, not families.

City Councilor Baca represents District 2 where the campus will be located.

“When I walk out my front door I see people dealing or using [drugs] — it’s one of the big issues in our city and across the country,” Baca told City Desk ABQ before the meeting. “There’s serious addiction issues in the city. We have to do something. We need things yesterday.”

Funds for the project were requested by the city’s Health, Housing and Homelessness (HHH) department and Mayor Tim Keller’s administration in mid-March. Baca carried the bill on behalf of the administration.

“Absent these facilities, persons seeking transitional recovery housing facilities may end up staying at temporary overnight shelters or continue to be unhoused,” HHH said in an analysis sent to city councilors.


Some city councilors were frustrated with the amount of money requested and that it is being allocated before a city and county joint agreement on how to spend the settlement funds is complete. The city and county entered into a contract with global health organization Vital Strategies in February for its recommendations on the best use of opioid settlement funds to be released later this year.

Albuquerque has received about $25 million in settlement money so far, while the county has received about $22.5 million. The funds come from historic settlements between states and companies like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons and others, due to their alleged involvement in the opioid epidemic.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be surprised when they hear that I’ve been very frustrated by this bill, because when I was first approached by the administration it was $1 million; and then it was $10 million; and then it was $4 million; then it was $2.5 million, and now it’s $5 million,” Fiebelkorn, said prior to the vote. “I’m totally for trying innovative solutions; I understand the need, but I also understand the opportunity that we have and I want to make sure that we’re using this money wisely.”

The city said the $5 million figure estimates the cost of the pallet homes, site preparation, and two years of operations. While the city now has the green light to move forward on the purchase of the pallet homes, an amendment passed unanimously requires a formal contract for opioid treatment services that details specific treatment protocols and provider agreements before residents could move in.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Samantha Sengel, told city councilors that the city would eventually issue a request for proposals for an addiction recovery operator at the site.

“Our goal is that we are moving them into permanent housing through the process of having the support and wraparound services,” she said. “Our intent is to move with haste on this. We have been told that pallet homes can be sent from the manufacturer anywhere between six-and-nine weeks.”

Gun supervisor for 'Rust' movie gets 18 months in prison for fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin on set — Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A movie weapons supervisor was sentenced to 18 months in prison in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of "Rust," during a hearing Monday in which tearful family members and friends gave testimonials that included calls for justice and a punishment that would instill greater accountability for safety on film sets.

Movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted in March by a jury on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and has been held for more than a month at a county jail on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Prosecutors blamed Gutierrez-Reed for unwittingly bringing live ammunition onto the set of "Rust," where it was expressly prohibited, and for failing to follow basic gun safety protocols.

Gutierrez-Reed was unsuccessful in her plea for a lesser sentencing, telling the judge she was not the monster that people have made her out to be and had tried to do her best on the set despite not having "proper time, resources and staffing." Gutierrez-Reed plans to appeal the judgement and sentence, defense attorney Jason Bowles said in an email.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer for "Rust," was pointing a gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal on a movie set outside Santa Fe in October 2021 when the revolver went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He is scheduled for trial in July at a courthouse in Santa Fe.

The sentence against Gutierrez-Reed was delivered by New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who is overseeing proceedings against Baldwin. The judge said anything less than the maximum sentence would not be appropriate given that Gutierrez-Reed's recklessness amounted to a serious violent offense.

"You were the armorer, the one that stood between a safe weapon and a weapon that could kill someone," the judge told Gutierrez-Reed. "You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon. But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive, a husband would have his partner and a little boy would have his mother."

Gutierrez-Reed teared up as Hutchins' agent, Craig Mizrahi, spoke about the cinematographer's creativity and described her as a rising star in Hollywood. He said it was a chain of events that led to Hutchins' death and that if the armorer had been doing her job, that chain would have been broken.

Friends and family recalled Hutchins as courageous, tenacious and compassionate — a "bright beam of light" who could have gone on to accomplish great things within the film industry.

"I really feel that this was due to negligence," Steven Metz, a close friend, testified. "This case needs to set a precedent for all the other actors, and cinematographers and every one on set whose lives are at risk when we have negligence in the hands of an armorer, a supposed armorer."

Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred read a statement by Hutchins' mother, Olga Solovey, who said her life had been split in two and that time didn't heal, rather it only prolonged her pain and suffering. A video of a tearful Solovey, who lives in Ukraine, also was played for the court.

"It's the hardest thing to lose a child. There's no words to describe," Solovey said in her native language.

The Ukrainian relatives of Hutchins are seeking damages in her death from Baldwin in connection with the shooting. Allred said after Monday's hearing that the family supports his criminal prosecution.

Defense attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed requested leniency in sentencing — including a possible conditional discharge that would avoid further jail time and leave an adjudication of guilt off her record if certain conditions are met.

Gutierrez-Reed was acquitted at trial of allegations she tampered with evidence in the "Rust" investigation. She also has pleaded not guilty to a separate felony charge that she allegedly carried a gun into a bar in Santa Fe where firearms are prohibited.

Defense attorneys have highlighted Gutierrez-Reed's relatively young age of 26 "and the devastating effect a felony will have on her life going forward," arguing that she will forever be affected negatively by intense publicity associated with her prosecution in parallel with an A-list actor.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey urged the judge to impose the maximum prison sentence and designate Gutierrez-Reed as a "serious violent offender" to limit her eligibility for a sentence reduction later, describing the defendant's behavior on the set of "Rust" as exceptionally reckless.

Morrissey told the judge Monday that she reviewed nearly 200 phone calls that Gutierrez-Reed had made from jail over the last month. She said she was hoping there would be a moment when the defendant would take responsibility for what happened or express genuine remorse.

"That moment has never come," Morrissey said. "Ms. Gutierrez continues to refuse to accept responsibility for her role in the death of Halyna Hutchins."

The judge indicated that summary transcripts of Gutierrez-Reed's telephone conversations from jail weighed in the sentencing.

"Hannah says that people have accidents and people die, it's an unfortunate part of life but it doesn't mean she should be in jail," Marlowe Sommer said. "The word 'remorse' — a deep regret coming from a sense of guilt for past wrongs — that's not you."

Defense attorneys argued Monday that Gutierrez-Reed was remorseful and had breakdowns over Hutchins' death. They also pointed to systemic problems that led to the shooting.

"Rust" assistant director and safety coordinator Dave Halls last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm and completed a sentence of six months unsupervised probation. "Rust" props master Sarah Zachry, who shared some responsibilities over firearms on the set, signed an agreement with prosecutors to avoid prosecution in return with her cooperation.

The pending firearms charge against Gutierrez-Reed stems from an incident at a Santa Fe bar, days before she was hired to work as the armorer on "Rust." Prosecutors say investigations into the fatal shooting led to the discovery of a selfie video in which Gutierrez-Reed filmed herself carrying a firearm into the bar, while defense attorneys allege vindictive prosecution.

Former New Mexico football player convicted of robbing a postal carrier — Associated Press

A former University of New Mexico football player has been convicted of robbing a U.S. postal carrier and is facing up to 10 years in prison, authorities said Monday.

Prosecutors said 28-year-old Rayshawn Boyce, of Albuquerque, also was found guilty by a federal jury of stealing a key belonging to the U.S. Postal Service and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

A sentencing date for Boyce hasn't been scheduled yet.

Boyce and a co-defendant pulled a mail carrier out of his truck in January 2022 in the International District and demanded his keys at gunpoint before a neighbor who witnessed the altercation intervened, prosecutors said.

Boyce fled the scene and authorities said they later executed a search warrant at his apartment and seized two semi-automatic guns and a revolver, leading to his arrest.

Boyce pleaded not guilty. His lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

After transferring to New Mexico from a California junior college, Boyce played in eight games for the Lobos in 2017 as a linebacker.

He was suspended from the team in 2018 after being accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Boyce pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Lengthy to-do list before NMFA begins approving $125 million in new housing loans - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico

The head of the state’s finance authority says it is on track to approve loans in the fall — so long as what she called the “time-line gods” are merciful.

Source New Mexico’s Patrick Lohman reports lawmakers approved $125 million dollars for the New Mexico Finance Authority this year for workforce and affordable housing. Workforce housing is generally for those who make too much to qualify for subsidies.

Under the new law, the fund will be used to address the statewide housing crisis. When she signed the legislation, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham challenged the authority to approve loans by the fall.

CEO Marquita Russel told Source New Mexico that the authority has a lot to do before it can get that money out the door. The bill requires it to add new board members with expertise in housing and create new rules governing the loan program. Those rules will be subject to multiple hearings, and the board will have to incorporate public comments once they are submitted.

Russel says she hopes applications will open in late summer.

When they do, private developers will have access to low interest loans to help build infrastructure for affordable housing projects or new housing for workers — like police officers and teachers — who can’t afford to live in the communities where they work.

Learn more from Source New Mexico at KUNM.org.

Many New Mexico voters lack choices in legislative races - By Marjorie Childress, New Mexico In Depth

As the 2024 primary election gets underway, New Mexicans have slim opportunities to cast a meaningful vote for the people who represent them in the Legislature.

New Mexico In Depth’s Margorie Childress reports a big chunk of legislative districts have so many Democrats or so many Republicans that there isn’t a serious race for those seats in the November general election.

There will be a few hot races, but not many.

In the Senate, there are just four districts out of 42 where there’s a fairly even split between Republicans and Democrats. All four are in the Albuquerque Metro Area.

Republicans have 11 safe seats and Democrats have 27 where the voter share of one party is more than 40%. In the House, there are just 13 seats out of 70 where neither party has over 40%.

36 incumbents across the two chambers have no challenger at all.

Learn more from New Mexico In Depth at KUNM.org.