Proposal Could Make New Mexico A 'Sanctuary State', 'F' Schools Facing Closure May Get Reprieve

Jan 18, 2019

Proposal Could Make New Mexico A 'Sanctuary State' - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A New Mexico bill could turn the state with the nation's largest percentage of Hispanic residents into a "sanctuary state."

Identical Democratic proposals in the New Mexico House and Senate would prevent state agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities and limit the authority of sheriffs and jails to hold federal immigrant detainees.

The bill comes after Democrats recently extended their majority in the state House and after Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took office.

The proposal also comes as a number of New Mexico cities and towns have declared themselves "sanctuaries" for immigrants living in the country illegally.

Activists have pressed cities and towns for the declaration amid uncertainty, President Donald Trump's call to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and other immigration enforcement proposals.

New Mexico 'F' Schools Facing Closure May Get Reprieve

New Mexico Lt. Gov. Howie Morales says education officials are still examining options for schools that have received consistent "F'' grades and face closure unless grades improve.

Morales, who is overseeing the state's Public Education Department, said the state is "not in the business of closing schools" and is looking at ways to prevent schools from shutting their doors.

Some schools like Whittier Elementary in Albuquerque and Dulce Elementary are facing closure after earning failing grades for several years resulting from test scores. State officials have labeled those schools in need of "more rigorous intervention." Both have earned seven F grades in a row.

Morales says Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to interview candidates for public education secretary.

Governor Ends Fuss Over Morales' Senate Seat, Appoints Ramos - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has appointed Gabriel Ramos to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reports Wednesday's appointment puts an end to a battle within her own Democratic party and halts an impasse with Grant, Catron and Socorro counties.

Lujan Grisham had asked the counties to give her additional names of potential candidates, arguing state law appears to require each county to nominate different possible successors. But county leaders stood by Ramos, a Democrat.

While Ramos received the backing of the boards of commissioners in the three counties, environmentalists argued he has been too supportive of the Central Arizona Project and some Democratic activists said he is too conservative.

But Lujan Grisham, with no other options, told Ramos she would appoint him to the post.

Civil Cases Stall At US Attorney's Office In New Mexico

The U.S. attorney for New Mexico says most of his agency's civil-law division has been furloughed under the partial federal government shutdown.

U.S. Attorney John Anderson said Thursday that about 30 people from the civil division are on furlough.

That division handles a wide variety of cases on eminent domain, collection of student loans, debts from court judgments, bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures.

Anderson says activities at the U.S. Attorney's Office related to criminal prosecutions have not been interrupted.

The shutdown, already the longest ever, entered its 27th day Thursday. The standoff stems from President Trump's demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border, a project that Democratic Congressional leaders call ineffective and immoral.

New Mexico Chief Justice Addresses Lawmakers, Defends Judges - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

New Mexico's chief justice is defending state judges against criticisms that they routinely release dangerous suspects awaiting trial onto the streets.

Justice Judith Nakamura also outlined proposals she said Thursday could attract a higher number of qualified candidates to the bench. Her remarks to lawmakers come as they weigh proposals aimed at streamlining the state's court system, which has more than 300 judges in nearly 200 courthouses across the state.

She says the judiciary has emerged from a dark decade in which courts often lacked funding to pay jurors and rent. With some stability, she says courts now are seeking to boost training for judges and transparency for the public.

She also called for extending how long newly appointed judges can serve before having to seek election to keep their seats on the bench.

New Mexico Ski Resort Says 2 Rescued From Avalanche - By Mary Hudetz, Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

An avalanche rushed down a mountainside at a New Mexico ski resort on Thursday, injuring two people who were pulled from the snow after a roughly 20-minute rescue effort, a resort spokesman said.

The avalanche near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley happened around 11:30 a.m., initially spurring fears among authorities that more victims may be buried on the mountain before witnesses told them they had not seen any other people on the slope when the slide began.

Still, a precautionary search of the mountain continued through much of the afternoon to ensure no other people remained trapped, said both Chris Stagg, a spokesman for Taos Ski Valley, and Bobby Lucero, the director for emergency management in Taos County.

The extent of the injuries for the two people, both males, was not immediately known. They were taken to hospitals in Albuquerque and Taos.

The avalanche happened on a stretch of mountain known as the K3 chute, where expert skiers who ride a lift to Kachina Peak can dart down a partially rock-lined run. It was unknown what triggered the avalanche, but the ski resort said an investigation was planned.

Stagg said the accident happened despite the resort taking a series of precautions Thursday morning.

-Update- Hospital CEO: Victim Of New Mexico Avalanche Has DiedAssociated Press 

A hospital official says one of the people pulled from the snow after an avalanche at a ski resort in New Mexico has died. 

CEO Bill Patten of Holy Cross Medical Center in Taos says the 22-year-old man had been brought to the hospital.

Patten said he couldn't provide the man's name or specifics involving his injuries.

University of New Mexico Hospital spokeswoman Cindy Foster in Albuquerque said Friday that another avalanche victim remained in critical condition. She said she couldn't release any additional information.

The avalanche crashed down a mountainside Thursday at Taos Ski Valley, 124 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

Appeal Targets Permit Change For US Nuclear Repository

Watchdog groups are appealing a recent permit change approval by New Mexico regulators that could ultimately allow for more waste to be placed at the U.S. government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

The approval by the state Environment Department came in the final days of former Gov. Susana Martinez's administration. The change was requested earlier by the U.S. Energy Department and the contractor that operates the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The permit modification changes the way the volume of waste is calculated. Specifically, it excludes the empty space inside waste packaging containers.

The Southwest Research and Information Center and Nuclear Watch New Mexico argue the modification is unlawful.

Critics also are concerned the change could be a first step in expanding the repository's mission to hold other kinds of waste.

New Mexico Regulators To Provide More Info On Racino Process - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico horse racing regulators are complying with a request by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for more information regarding pending applications for the state's sixth and final license for a racetrack and casino.

The Democratic governor, who took office Jan. 1, made the request for additional research in a letter sent to the commission Wednesday.

Commission Chairman Ray Willis announced during Thursday's meeting in Albuquerque that the panel had contracted with a company to conduct an independent study. That was completed in November, and Willis said it will be made available to the public.

Willis said the commission also is awaiting resolution of a petition filed in district court by one of the companies vying for the license. That company is seeking a temporary injunction, saying the commission hasn't done enough to study the issue.

Police: Bullying Reported To Officials Before Girl's SuicideAssociated Press 

Authorities in Connecticut say school officials and police were told weeks before an 11-year-old girl killed herself that she was being bullied.

Anjelita Estrada's death two days before Christmas was ruled a suicide. The sixth-grader began attending Doolittle Elementary School in Cheshire in September after moving from New Mexico.

Police reports obtained by the Republican-American say the girl's mother and stepfather told police in the weeks before her death that she felt she was being bullied because she was Hispanic. Police also said a teacher told school administrators about the bullying.

School Superintendent Jeffrey Solan said school officials cannot comment on what they did in response to the bullying report because it is under investigation.

The state's Child Fatality Review Panel is determining whether a full investigation is warranted.