New Mexico Last In Child Well-Being, Fire Danger Prompts NM County To Cancel Fireworks

Jun 27, 2018

Report Finds New Mexico Falls To Last Place In Child Well-BeingAssociated Press

An annual report shows New Mexico falling to last place in child well-being as the number of children in the state living in poverty and without health insurance increased.

The Kids Count analysis released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation focuses on economic, education, health, family, and community trends for children over a roughly six-year period ending in 2016.

It also showed the state lagged in education, with three-quarters of fourth graders not proficient in reading. High schools in 2016 graduated only 71 percent of students on time.

New Mexico has struggled for years in the rankings, although this year's report was the first since 2013 in which the state fell from 49th to last place.

Downwinders Association Members Testify Before Congress- Albuquerque Journal

Several members from the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Association testified in a formal hearing before Congress Wednesday the Albuquerque Journal reports.  Navajo Nation Vice President, Jonathan Nez and Association co-founder Tina Cordova were among those who shared heartfelt stories of sickness and death due to long term radiation exposure in their communities in NM.

The hearing was a result of years of effort by the Downwinders Association.  Similar hearings were scheduled in the past only to be delayed more than once. 

NM Democratic Sen. Udall has sponsored legislation requesting reparations for victims and families.  Sen. Udall has been an advocate for a Radiation Exposure and Compensation bill in Congress for a number of years.  He clearly expressed that now is the time to bring justice to these New Mexicans.

Fire Danger Prompts New Mexico County To Cancel Fireworks- Los Alamos County Monitor, Associated Press

A Fourth of July fireworks show in Los Alamos County has been canceled due to dry conditions and extreme fire danger as crews battle blazes elsewhere around New Mexico.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports that County Fire Chief Troy Hughes broke the news Tuesday to the Kiwanis Club, which puts on the show in the community of White Rock. Hughes said the forecast provides no indication that the area will receive any significant rainfall soon.

Much of the northern half of New Mexico is dealing with extreme to exceptional drought conditions.

The Fourth of July event at Overland Park draws thousands of people from the area and is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Kiwanis Club. The club said the fireworks will be stored and used next year.

Federal Ruling May Affect States' LawsuitAssociated Press

A federal judge in California has ordered U.S. border authorities to reunite children with their separated families and it wasn't immediately clear how the ruling would affect a similar lawsuit from 17 states.

A judge in San Diego on Tuesday said migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border must be reunited within 30 days of the ruling issued late Tuesday. Any child younger than 5 must be reunified within the next 14 days.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw also issued a nationwide injunction on future family separations.

California, Washington, New York and other states, including New Mexico, joined Washington, D.C. on Tuesday in filing a lawsuit that would force the Trump administration to reunite the separated families.

Immigration authorities have sparked global outrage by separating about 2,300 children from their loved ones.

Family Separations Bring Call For Rare Language Interpreters - By Anita Snow, Associated Press

As word spread that the Trump administration was separating migrant families, urgent calls went out across the internet for interpreters at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But this call was not for Spanish speakers. These interpreters needed to speak the lesser-known indigenous languages of Guatemala and Mexico, including Mayan languages and Zapotec.

Guatemalans have been the largest group of immigrants apprehended at the Mexico border this year. The U.S. Border Patrol says almost 29,300 families were arrested from Oct. 1 to May 31. Many of them are not fluent in Spanish and instead speak Mayan languages known as K'iche' and Mam.

Robert Foss is a Los Angeles immigration attorney. He says having an interpreter is essential for immigrants to receive "a full and fair hearing," especially in asylum cases.

New Mexico Dept Of Workforce Solutions Secretary Leaving JobAssociated Press

New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Celina Bussey will be leaving her job soon.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday that Bussey will step down effective Aug. 10 to serve as the chief workforce development officer at Central New Mexico Community College.

Martinez appointed Bussey in 2011 shortly after taking office.

During Bussey's tenure, the governor's office says New Mexico became the first state in the nation to implement a modernized, integrated unemployment insurance tax and claims system.

Deputy Secretary Erin Thompson will serve as acting cabinet secretary after Bussey's departure.

New Mexico Pueblos Affirm Support For National MonumentsAssociated Press

New Mexico Native American leaders are reaffirming their support for two national monuments in the state that were among those reviewed last year by the Trump administration.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors passed a resolution Tuesday in support of the Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monuments.

Federal officials announced in December that the boundaries of the monuments would remain intact, and that modifications would be made to protect the long-standing culture of grazing and to ensure hunters and anglers don't lose access.

The council says it would be opposed to any changes as the monuments have protected significant cultural sites and have increased visitation.

The council also voiced opposition to a decision to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. That case has spurred lawsuits.

New Mexico Election Results Certified, 2 Recounts OrderedAssociated Press

New Mexico election officials have certified the results from the June primary and have ordered an automatic recount in two contests.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced the certification after the State Canvassing Board met Tuesday in Santa Fe.

One recount involves the Republican primary contest in Public Regulation District 5. Candidates Ben Hall and Chris Mathys are within 1 percent of each other's total votes.

The other recount will focus on the Democratic contest for an Albuquerque-based House seat currently held by Republican Rep. Larry Larrañaga. Democrats William Pratt and Nicholas Martin are vying for the chance to run against Larranñaga.

Under state law, elections for districted offices must be automatically recounted if the margin between the top two vote-getters is less than 1 percent.

The recounts will begin this week.

Bernalillo County Deploying Mobile Voting Unit This YearKRQE-TV, Associated Press

Bernalillo County says it will deploy a mobile voting unit for this year's general election.

County Clerk Linda Stover says the mobile unit will be placed near a different senior citizen facility each day during early voting. But it's open to all registered voters.

KRQE-TV reports that the unit will have 15 voting stations and is accessible to people with disabilities.

Stover says she she'd like to see mobile voting units eventually used throughout the state.

Elephant Butte Gets Federal Funding For Drought ProjectAssociated Press

A southern New Mexico irrigation district is getting federal funding to help weather the ongoing drought.

The Elephant Butte Irrigation District will use more than $180,000 on a project to improve water flow, storm water harvesting and aquifer recharge.

The district will contribute a nearly equal amount.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced the funding Tuesday. The agency awarded more than $8 million to 13 projects in New Mexico, Utah and California.

The funding is part of the agency's drought response program.

New Mexico Democrats To Give Up Prison Firms' DonationsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Several prominent New Mexico Democrats say they will make charitable donations in the amounts of campaign contributions they received from two private prison companies amid debate over the Trump administration's child separation policy and other immigration-related issues.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the companies are GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic, which operate immigrant detention centers and private correctional facilities across the country. New Mexico in Depth first reported on the donations.

Spokesmen for the two companies say they do not operate facilities for unaccompanied minors, and that their organizations do not advocate for or against immigration enforcement or detention policies.

GEO Group operates several private prisons and related facilities in New Mexico, and CoreCivic runs a private prison and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Cibola County.

Share prices of both GEO Group and CoreCivic have risen in response to Trump administration immigration policies.

Feds Say Up To $110M Available To Tribal Crime VictimsAssociated Press

Federal authorities say they will make up to $110 million available to help tribes support Native American and Alaska Native crime victims, who advocates say were largely left out of a key federal funding program for years.

U.S. Justice Department officials announced the funding amount Tuesday in Albuquerque, citing the high rates at which Native Americans are victims of violence.

The appropriation for tribes was included in the $1.3 trillion federal spending bill approved by Congress earlier this year.  It allows for 3 percent from the multi-billion-dollar Victims of Crime Act fund to be set aside for tribes.

The funds have long been made available to states and federal agencies. Tribes in the past often had to submit requests to states if they wanted to seek money in the fund.

County Pays $125K To Settle Inmate's Sexual Assault LawsuitSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Documents show Santa Fe County paid $125,000 in a settlement with a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a jail guard while she was an inmate.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the woman said in a complaint that Nicolas Baca, who works as a guard, made sexual comments to her and eventually asked her to perform oral sex on him.

The woman said she agreed to be a participant in the sexual misconduct because she "was scared of Baca's position as a corrections officer."

A report by a Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office detective says Baca denied the allegations and no criminal charges were filed.

County spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic confirmed Monday that Baca still works at the jail.

Baca said in an email that two investigations cleared him of all allegations.

HHS Inspector General Examining Migrant Shelters- Associated Press

The Health and Human Services inspector general's office says it's launching a wide-ranging review of conditions at shelters for migrant children.

The agency said today its focus will be on safety and health-related concerns, as well as the training and qualifications of federal contractors who are supposed to ensure the well being of children temporarily in federal custody.

Spokeswoman Tesia Williams says the inspector general's probe will not focus on specific allegations of mistreatment, since those are being investigated separately.

HHS is caring for about 12,000 migrant children, including some 2,000 who arrived at the southwest border with a parent and were separated because of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy.

A judge has ordered those children reunited with their parents.