KUNM

Marisa Demarco

Reporter

Marisa Demarco is a reporter based in Albuquerque, N.M. She's spent more than a decade in journalism, founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She covered poverty and public health until September 2016 when she became a general assignment reporter at KUNM. 

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Congress decided in the ’90s how much nuclear waste could be deposited into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. WIPP is the only place in the country this radioactive garbage can be stored permanently. But when the feds hit the limit, the facility is supposed to close.

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Nationally, about 43,000 immigration court hearings have been canceled as a result of the federal government shutdown. It’s estimated that 20,000 more will be nixed every week from here on out as long as the political standoff over a border wall continues. Here in New Mexico, immigration lawyers and their clients are feeling the effects.

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With the federal government shutdown, SNAP benefits in New Mexico were scheduled to dry up at the end of January. The 455,000 New Mexicans who rely on the food assistance program would have been impacted.

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Albuquerque is the worst city in the U.S. when it comes to vehicle thefts and break-ins. But auto thefts and burglaries are each down now by almost one-third, according to a report released Sunday.

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When people are behind bars, the government is responsible for their health care. That’s in the U.S. Constitution. Anything less is considered cruel and unusual punishment. But New Mexico has a history of struggling to meet that obligation. Lawsuits about deaths and permanent health damage pile up.

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Pedestrian fatalities are up all around the United States—and New Mexico is no exception. We’re on track to have one of the worst rates in the country, and one of the worst years we’ve had in a while. Seventy-eight people were killed this year, and that number doesn’t count December. Better Burque blogger Scot Key has been following the problem for years, and he talked with KUNM about the reality of these deaths.

Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos

Central American transgender women who are seeking asylum in the U.S. are sent by immigration officials to a detention pod in rural New Mexico. This year, volunteers from many organizations here came together to help them. The work started as kind of a scramble, but over time, quick coordination has smoothed out.

Courtesy of Roadrunner

Food banks around the country haven’t been getting the kind of big donations of nonperishable food they count on. Here in New Mexico, employees at Roadrunner Food Bank are nervous about low levels of canned and boxed meals in the warehouse.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Transgender asylum-seekers are detained in a special unit in New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Center. A Santa Fe legal group is working with transgender people from the new caravan at the border to try and minimize their time in lockup here.

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Let’s Talk New Mexico 11/29 8a: This week, we’re focusing on transgender folks who thrive in our community, the growing acceptance in younger generations, and gains being made around the country. Media narratives often emphasize the discrimination and violence transgender people face. Those are essential stories, but we want to add to the conversation.

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Democratic candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham trounced Steve Pearce, winning the seat by almost a hundred thousand votes.

KNME Candidate Forum

Democratic U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich won a second term last night, beating Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Marisa Demarco/KUNM

Democrat Deb Haaland won New Mexico’s race for the open First District U.S. House seat.

Marisa Demarco/KUNM

Election night saw gains for New Mexico Democrats. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham won the governorship by a healthy margin, outpacing opponent Steve Pearce by almost 14 percentage points. Despite deep ideological divisions between the major political parties, Lujan Grisham talked unity.

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Voters on Tuesday should expect to vote without being hassled, and to be treated courteously. You can push back if your experience is any different, or if anyone stands between you and your ballot.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Jonathan Sakura looked at the spot where his car was parked outside his home a couple nights ago when someone smashed the rear window and grabbed his girlfriend’s bag. "It’s a bummer. It’s violating," he said. "You know, this is our property. This is our stuff. And somebody taking something that doesn’t belong to them— it’s kinda disheartening, and morale drops a little bit."

Hannah Colton / KUNM

In Bernalillo County’s Metro Court, judges hear cases about drunk driving, domestic violence, drugs, traffic tickets, and small civil claims. It’s the busiest court in the state and the only one like it here. Here’s how it works: When someone wants to appeal a decision from Metro Court, they have to present the case again at District Court across the street and get an OK before it heads up to Appeals Court. This election, there’s a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would free lawmakers up to change this appeals system.

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As people in New Mexico look over their ballots, they might run into a whole mess of judges—often folks they don’t know anything about. The state’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission—or JPEC—was created to help. The commission interviews judges, watches them in court and sends around confidential surveys to their staff and to lawyers. KUNM spoke with JPEC's vice-chair, former District Court Judge James Hall, about how these reviews helped him when he was on the bench.

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Most other states around the country have some kind of watchdog agency in place to investigate politicians and other powerful people entrusted with public dollars. But New Mexico doesn’t have anything like that. So would a commission with the power to investigate and field ethics complaints help stop corruption here? The issue will be on ballots in November.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

 


Let’s Talk New Mexico 10/4 8am: Around the country, voter participation is surging, and people are predicting the midterms in November will see a big turnout. Still, plenty of eligible people—even folks who are registered—don’t cast their ballots. Are you planning not to vote? Do you distrust politicians, government and the two-party political process? Are you tired of extreme rhetoric and ideological divisions? Do you dislike negative campaign ads? Are you frustrated with who’s on your ballot?

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More folks are experiencing homelessness around the country, and Albuquerque’s mayor says the numbers are up here, too. Mayor Tim Keller talked about the pros and cons of what his predecessor Richard Berry rolled out, and how the city can create a system that’s easy to navigate for people who don’t have a place to live.

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Let's Talk New Mexico 9/20 8 am: Prisons in New Mexico don’t have enough medical staff, and advocates say this means people don’t get the help they need—even when their injuries and illnesses are severe. Are you incarcerated? Or do you have friends or family members in state prisons? Are you concerned about their health? Email LetsTalk@kunm.org, tweet #letstalkNM or call in live during the show on Thursday morning: 277-5866.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Hundreds of students around the state are affected by the Trump administration’s amped-up immigration rhetoric, and teachers are seeing the effects in their classrooms. The New Mexico Dream Team held a training for University of New Mexico faculty, instructors and staff on Friday.

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The state fired the private company in charge of prisoner health care and gave the contract to another company after a 2016 investigation into dangerously bad medical care in prisons by the Santa Fe New Mexican. But in the two years since the change, millions of dollars in fines have been leveled against the new private health care provider. 

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The American Civil Liberties Union says laws against panhandling around the country violate free speech rights. The local branch of the ACLU sent letters to 10 cities in New Mexico on Monday, August 28, demanding that they strike down those panhandling bans.

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New Mexico’s struggled for years with how to handle Real ID and created a two-tiered system where people have an option for an alternative license or identification card. A legal settlement announced on Tuesday, Aug. 21, will force the Motor Vehicle Division to accept more types of documentation for people who opt out of Real ID.

Courtesy of the City of Albuquerque

Let's Talk New Mexico 8/16 8a: Did you know that you can check out cake pans, WiFi hotspots and ukuleles from Albuquerque Public Libraries? You can skip expensive gym bills and work out for free—lift weights, get on a cardio machine—at some community centers. What do you know about that's free? What free resources do you find useful? What do you wish was offered for free? Email LetsTalk@kunm.org, tweet with #LetsTalkNM or call in live during the show. 

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Horrifying and fatal cases of child abuse and neglect are pervasive in New Mexico. People here are asking the question: How do we stop this? Nationally, evidence is showing that prevention is the key.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Seven red states filed a lawsuit in May arguing that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, is unconstitutional because Congress never voted on it. A District Court judge in Texas will hear arguments on Wednesday, Aug. 8, about whether to issue an emergency halt to DACA.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

People detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement around the country describe harsh conditions and even abuse inside facilities. Transgender women seeking asylum in the United States are often held by ICE in a separate pod at a detention center near Grants, New Mexico. On Friday, July 27, advocates saw a small victory when some women were released.

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