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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State lawmakers just passed restrictions on solitary confinement, the first of their kind in the state. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs them into law, New Mexico prisons and jails will have rules about who they can isolate. 

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For decades, legislators have repeatedly fumbled the creation of an ethics commission to stop government corruption. But voters demanded one overwhelmingly in November, and now it’s on some of the very people the commission would police—state lawmakers—to decide what it can and can’t do. They’re considering two bills this year: one where people can see what the commission’s up to and one where it’s mostly secret.

Ed Williams / KUNM

Nationally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement held 42,000 people in custody on average on any given day last year. People leaving ICE detention often say conditions were bad, and they were abused or didn’t get enough to eat. Some New Mexico lawmakers are carrying a bill that might create a window into ICE facilities here.

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The United States imprisons a larger portion of its population than any other country in the world, and the use of solitary confinement is widespread. Here in New Mexico, the rate has been going down, but the American Civil Liberties Union released a study Thursday, Feb. 28, saying the numbers are much higher than the state reports.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

There are headlines around the country about officers abusing their power, coercing, assaulting or trafficking sex workers. Not being able to trust police enough to report violent experiences is part of what makes people especially vulnerable to serial killers and rapists. Now, 10 years after a mass grave was discovered on the West Mesa, the Albuquerque Police Department is trying to rebuild trust and stop that from happening again. 

Three detectives are still working a combined 40 hours each week to solve the murders of nine woman and two teen girls whose remains were discovered on Albuquerque’s West Mesa in 2009.

KUNM spoke with Lt. Scott Norris, who took over the violent crimes section of the Albuquerque Police Department about a month ago and is now overseeing the investigation.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s no secret that sex workers often don’t trust law enforcement and don’t ask police for help after incidents of violence. Officers around the U.S. are themselves arrested for trafficking, raping and abusing people on the street. Here in New Mexico, those stories pop up, too. And people who do that kind of work here say there’s a feeling that it’s either not safe, or that police won’t respond well if they report they’ve been attacked or assaulted. That can mean serial offenders go unchecked.

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New Mexico legislators on Wednesday debated eliminating the state’s sales tax on so-called feminine hygiene products, like tampons and pads. Countries around the world have reduced or eliminated these taxes, and at least 10 states in the U.S. have done away with them, too.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It was 10 years ago, on Feb. 2, that a woman walking her dog on Albuquerque’s West Mesa found a bone that turned out to be human. Eventually, the bones of 11 people were discovered there—two teen girls and nine women.

Family members and advocates gathered this weekend at the site to remember those who were killed, and to call for compassion for people living and working on Albuquerque’s streets.

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The partial government shutdown is over for a couple of weeks. But the state is considering contingency plans for families who count on food benefits in case there’s another shutdown in mid-February.

Arianna Sena / KUNM

New Mexico lawmakers on Wednesday, Jan. 30, moved legislation forward that changes the way people who are under 18 are treated when they’re accused of prostitution. Instead of being arrested and subject to criminal punishment, they could be given treatment and services.

Andy Swapp / Mesalands


Let’s Talk New Mexico 1/31 8a: Politicians are promising to boost the economy in New Mexico and slow our warming climate with renewable energy and green jobs. It’s being called a Green New Deal. People in New Mexico have heard talk of this before. So what's worked? What hasn't? How about our new governor, and our congressional leaders—many of whom campaigned on green jobs? What green economy promises do you want to make sure don’t die on the vine?

United States Department of Energy via Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

A private company called Holtec wants to store nuclear waste from the country’s power plants in New Mexico. A panel of three judges from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board started hearing from opponents to the plan Wednesday, Jan. 23, and will consider which of their challenges are legal.

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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.

Joe Gratz via Flickr CC

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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