Border City Allows Private Wall Construction To Resume, Census Head Promises Independence On Count

May 30, 2019

New Mexico City Allows Construction Of Private Border Wall Associated Press

A New Mexico city is allowing construction to resume of a privately funded barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border following questions about its permit.

The group We Build the Wall Inc. erected around 1,500 feet of bollard-style fencing along private property in Sunland Park over the weekend without going through the city's review process.

Contractors submitted an application for a construction permit at the insistence of city building inspectors, who later determined that it was incomplete.

The city sent a cease-and-desist order, prompting thousands of phone calls from the group's supporters.

Once the review was complete, City Manager Julia Brown confirmed Thursday that permits were issued for the barrier.

Plans obtained by The Associated Press say that when it's finished, the wall will stretch about 2,300 feet.

Group Behind Private Border Wall Has More PlansAssociated Press

The man behind an online fundraising campaign to build a privately funded barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border says his group has 10 more projects in the pipeline but he declined to provide details about where the sections of wall would be located.

Veteran Brian Kolfage made the announcement during a news conference in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where We Build the Wall Inc. has been installing a concrete and metal barrier on private property.

Contractor Jimmy Fisher said Thursday the section will be just under a half-mile long.

Kris Kobach, the group's legal counsel, said We Build the Wall plans to sign an easement allowing Border Patrol agents to patrol the private property without having to hand over ownership of the land to federal officials.

Oil Refining Company Plans Expansion Of New Mexico FacilityCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

The only crude oil refinery in southeast New Mexico serving Permian Basin production is looking to expand.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Dallas-based Holly Frontier announced last week plans to apply for a permit modification so it can upgrade the Navajo Refinery in Artesia.

The refinery can currently process up to 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Holly Frontier plans to add six storage tanks, a railcar loading and unloading rack, a cooling tower and other piping components. It also plans to install a renewable diesel unit.

The state Air Quality Bureau will need to modify the refinery's permit for the expansion to proceed.

Document: Fatal Uber Shooting Stemmed From 'Vomit' In CarAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Court documents show a fatal shooting of a New Mexico man killed by a ride-share driver stemmed from "a large amount of vomit" in an Uber vehicle.

The Albuquerque Journal reports documents submitted by the Bernalillo County District Attorney last week said the shooting was sparked by an argument over a "clean-up fee."

Police say a driver Clayton Benedict shot and killed 27-year-old passenger James Porter along Interstate 25 in Albuquerque on March 17. Benedict has not been charged and has declined to comment.

District Attorney's Office spokesman Michael Patrick says a charging decision may come in the next few weeks.

Last month, the family of Porter filed a lawsuit against Uber and Benedict over the shooting.

Uber told the Journal that Benedict no longer has access to the Uber app as a driver.

Lawyer Says Activist On Trial Showed 'Kindness' Helping MigrantsAssociated Press

A lawyer for a border activist being tried in federal court in Arizona says his client was just trying to be kind by helping two migrants with water, food and lodging last year.

But prosecutors said they have evidence 36-year-old Scott Daniel Warren conspired to harbor the migrants.

The prosecutors also say the migrants were not in distress when arrived at a privately-owned building used to provide aid to immigrants who crossed the desert from Mexico into Arizona.

The Arizona Daily Star reports defense attorney Greg Kuykendall said in his opening statement Wednesday that prosecutors must prove Warren intended to break the law to be found guilty of harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor the two immigrant men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally.

US Supreme Court Denies Review Of Arizona Child Welfare CaseAssociated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied review of an Arizona case challenging a law that gives preference to American Indians in adoptions of Native children.

The order this week leaves in place a lower court ruling that dismissed a complaint from a Phoenix-based, right-leaning think tank.

The Goldwater Institute sought to keep two children with ties to the Gila River and Navajo tribes from being removed from their non-Native foster parents.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the case was moot because the children had been adopted.

The 9th Circuit didn't rule on the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

That question is before a federal appeals court in Louisiana in a separate case out of Texas that represents the most significant challenge to the 40-year-old law.

Census Head Assures Latinos, Native Americans On 2020 Count - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

The 2020 Census will remain independent and will avoid political pressures amid uncertainty over how the bureau will question immigrants, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said Wednesday.

Dillingham told reporters in Albuquerque that U.S. Census workers would make sure states with high percentages of Latinos and Native Americans receive accurate counts. He also said bureau workers have taken a "lifetime oath" not to share private information and all residents should feel comfortable participating in the census next year.

His remarks come as the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a possible question about whether a person is a United States citizen.

They also come as some Latino and Native American activists have expressed concerns about how the Trump Administration will conduct the 2020 Census.

Dillingham said the bureau is staffed with career employees who don't let politics dictate how they do their jobs.

US Officials To Put Off Oil Leases Near Sacred Tribal Land - Associated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has agreed to put off oil and gas leasing for a year on land that tribes consider sacred surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.

Officials say that will allow time to finish an updated management plan to guide energy development across the region. The decision comes after Bernhardt visited the ancient site Tuesday.

The area has been central to an ongoing dispute over drilling in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.

Native American tribes and others are pushing for a formal buffer to protect culturally significant sites within 10 miles of the park.

The management plan will include an alternative that reflects the views of Native American leaders and provisions from pending federal legislation.

New Mexico Chooses Ombudsman For Nursing Home Complaints - Associated Press

New Mexico has hired attorney and social worker Linnea Forsythe as the state's new ombudsman for long-term care to address concerns and complaints from the residents of nursing homes.

Aging and Long-Term Services Secretary Alice Liu McCoy announced the appointment Wednesday. She says the position is critical to protecting the health, safety and rights of vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities.

States are required to have an ombudsman program for long-term care under the federal Older Americans Act. The ombudsman in New Mexico relies on a network of volunteers that currently number fewer than 50.

The state's long-term care agency is attempting to expand that network of volunteers with the hiring of Forsythe.

Troubled Mora District Hires 9th Superintendent In 3 Years - Las Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A troubled northern New Mexico school district that has had eight superintendents in three years has hired another one.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the Mora Schools Board of Education voted last week to offer a two-year contract to Peñasco Schools Superintendent Marvin MacAuley. The move comes days after two-thirds of voters defeated a mill levy for Mora Public Schools.

Last year, the Mora Schools Board of Education fired Superintendent Ella Arellano after no school earned higher than a C grade from the state.

Former Superintendent Charles Trujillo pleaded guilty to a felony charge for falsifying credentials.

In November, the Las Vegas Optic reported Interim Superintendent Carla Westbrook-Spaniel once was arrested for public intoxication and accused of leaving two preschool-age children alone while she went to a nightclub.

District Attorney Kicks Off Democratic Bid For Congress - Associated Press

Northern New Mexico District Attorney Marco Serna is diving into his campaign for the Democratic nomination to an open Congressional race in 2020.

Serna was scheduled Thursday to kick off a campaign tour of 16 communities in the 3rd Congressional District with an event at his mother's jewelry store in Española.

Serna already has pledged to make solutions to the state's opioid addiction crisis a top priority if elected to Congress. As district attorney, he has helped divert some nonviolent drug offenders into counseling and supportive services as an alternative to incarceration.

Serna joins a field of at least seven Democratic candidates.

Third-District Rep. Ben Ray Luján is running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

On Tuesday, Española native and economic development consultant Rob Apodaca announced his Democratic candidacy.

New Mexico Signs Off On Settlements In Pay-To-Play Scandal - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico's State Investment Council has approved settlements in a decade-old scandal that involved politically influenced investment deals using state money.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the council unanimously approved settlements Tuesday with Anthony Correra and his son Marc Correra, who shared in more than $22 million in fees charged to investment firms.

Anthony Correra has agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims that he illegally directed state investments to firms that paid fees to his son.

Marc Correra has agreed to turn over $4.1 million to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to be used to settle claims. The settlement also allows $900,000 to be released from an escrow account.

The father and son have both agreed to never conduct business again in New Mexico.

New Mexico Gets New Commission To Oversee Wildlife, Hunting - Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed new members to a state panel that oversees wildlife management and sets hunting and fishing regulations across New Mexico.

The new Game Commission was announced Tuesday. The panel will meet June 14 in Albuquerque.

The commissioners include Roberta Salazar Henry and David Soules, who both are members of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance board of directors. Salazar Henry also worked for the state Game and Fish Department for 25 years.

The others are Jeremy Vesbach, former director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation; former state energy secretary Joanna Prukop; Gail Cramer, who served on the commission from 1996 to 2000; Albuquerque businessman and hunter Jimmy Bates; and Tirzio Lopez, a former park ranger who now works as a criminal investigator with the state Public Regulation Commission.

Politicians Pay Tribute To Navajo Code Talker - Associated Press

Family, friends and politicians honored deceased Navajo Code Talker and state Sen. John Pinto at a memorial procession and service.

Hundreds of mourners gathered inside the New Mexico state Capitol on Wednesday to hear tributes to Pinto.

Democratic Senate majority leader Peter Wirth said colleagues of Pinto were awed by the stamina that carried the World War II veteran through 42 years as a legislator.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham praised Pinto for rallying lawmakers this year to authorize state spending on a museum about Navajo code talkers who helped safeguard military secrets in World War II by encrypting radio communications. She noted that Pinto's political career spanned across landmark legislation for Native American health care and tribal consultation requirements for governments.

Devon Energy To Open Office In Southeastern New Mexico - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Devon Energy, an independent company engaged in finding and producing oil and natural gas, is opening up an office in southeastern New Mexico.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the Oklahoma City-based company recently announced plans to expand to Hobbs.

The Hobbs office is expected to open later this summer and will house approximately 40 of Devon's 225 employees in the currently booming oil and gas region.

It will be one of five Devon offices situated across southeast New Mexico and west Texas to support the company's Delaware Basin operations.

Devon operates in several of the most prolific oil and natural gas plays in the U.S. and Canada.

Navajo Nation Votes To Accept Copy Of 1868 Treaty - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has accepted an original copy of an 1868 treaty that had been stored in a Massachusetts home.

The treaty allowed Navajos to return to their homeland in the Four Corners region after years of imprisonment in eastern New Mexico.

It is one of three known copies of the treaty. One is at the National Archives. Another was given to Navajo Chief Barboncito, but its whereabouts are unknown.

The great-grandniece of one of the negotiators, Clare "Kitty" P. Weaver, recently donated the third copy to the tribe. A legislative committee voted Tuesday to accept it.

Weaver was visiting the Navajo Nation on Wednesday where a small crowd gathered to see the treaty.

It will be on display at the Navajo Nation Museum for a week starting Saturday.