State Eyes New Hate-Crimes Unit, Cuban Asylum-Seekers Say Hunger Strikes Punished With Solitary

Nov 19, 2019

New Mexico May Form Hate-Crimes Unit After Texas MassacreAssociated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor wants to create a special investigative unit to guard against hate crimes and bolster cybersecurity in response to the August mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and other emergent threats.

Attorney General Hector Balderas on Tuesday asked the Legislature to provide funding for five new employees as a precaution against potential attacks on public schools, retail stores and other vulnerable public venues.

Police say a gunman was targeting Mexicans as he opened fire on Aug. 3 at a retail store within 10 miles of New Mexico, killing 22 people. More than 40% of New Mexico residents claim Latino heritage.

Officials including Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have expressed support for possible new criminal statutes related to domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Storm Systems To Drop Rain, Snow While Crossing New MexicoAssociated Press

Forecasters say back-to-back storm systems will pass across New Mexico this week, bringing showers and thunderstorms starting late Tuesday and "treacherous" travel conditions in mountain passes by Thursday.

The National Weather Service says the first system will spread northeast through the state late Tuesday night and Wednesday. Snow levels will fall to near 8,500 by Wednesday evening.

The second system will move through the state Thursday, with snow levels as low as 6,000 feet and over 12 of snowfall in higher terrain.

Safety Board Considers Cause Of Jet's Fatal Engine Blow-Out - Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board is meeting to consider the cause of a deadly engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight last year.

The incident killed a passenger from Albuquerque who was blown partly out of the plane when a piece of the engine shattered the window next to her.

The safety board met Tuesday in Washington.

According to preliminary findings, a fan blade in one engine broke, starting a cascade of events that led to the engine blowing apart about 30,000 feet over Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old banker and mother of two, died from her injuries. Pilots were able to land the plane without serious injury to other passengers.

The incident led to more intensive inspections of fan blades on certain engines made by CFM International.

Cuban Asylum-Seekers: Hunger Strikes Punished With Solitary - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A dozen Cuban asylum-seekers detained in New Mexico say they have repeatedly been placed in solitary confinement for going on hunger strikes.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports two asylum-seekers in federal immigration custody say they and 10 others were put in solitary confinement twice as punishment for protesting their lengthy stay in prison.

The men are being held at the privately run Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico.

Juan Carlos Peña Pavon told the newspaper he spent nine days in solitary confinement.

The 51-year-old Peña Pavon is part of a group of detained asylum-seekers that last month staged sit-ins at Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico.

A spokesperson at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s El Paso field office did not respond to an email.

New Mexico’s Largest City Adds Detectives Amid Homicide Jump - KOB-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico’s largest city is adding more homicide detectives as it nears a record number of killings seen in a year.

KOB-TV reports the Albuquerque Police Department is preparing to hire more homicide detectives after Mayor Tim Keller doubled the number when he took office in 2017.

The city of Albuquerque is two killings away from tying its deadliest year ever with 72 homicides.

FBI statistics show Albuquerque had a violent crime rate of 1,365 per 100,000 residents in 2018. The national rate was about 369 violent crimes per 100,000 residents that year.

Earlier this year, the country of Uruguay issued a warning to its citizens about traveling to Albuquerque.

Auditor Says New Mexico Secret Settlements Were ‘Abuse Of Power’ - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón says around $2.7 million in secret settlements with appointees under former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez were an “abuse of power.”

Colón said Monday a recent audit into past sealed agreements during the Martinez Administration found that 12 lacked proper documentation, transparency, and investigations. He says the secret settlements appeared to be protecting the former governor’s “political legacies” and her political agendas rather than taxpayers.

The audit came following revelations about secret settlements of lawsuits against state officials under the Martinez Administration. Some of those settlements were sealed until after her departure from office at the end of 2018.

Martinez did not immediately return a phone message.

Colón says he forwarded the audit to the state Attorney General’s Office to review.

Governor Resumes Publication Of Her Meetings, Travel - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham resumed publication Monday of a running list of her appointments and work travel after a seven-week lapse.

In response to an inquiry by The Associated Press, Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the delay in publishing the governor’s agenda was an oversight.

Weekly online updates about the governor’s conversations and appointments were introduced earlier this year as an extra step toward transparency. It marked a change from the administration of Republican predecessor Susana Martinez, who offered a rough itinerary with far fewer details.

Lujan Grisham's agendas show recent meetings with a variety of energy companies amid an overhaul of methane regulations and new mandates for cleaner sources of electricity.

During an annual meeting of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association in Santa Fe in September, Lujan Grisham met privately with petroleum multinational ConocoPhillips and natural gas producer Hilcorp Energy. No names were listed for company representatives who attended.

State regulators overseen by Lujan Grisham are in the midst of drafting new proposed rules for state oversight of methane amid efforts to limit leaks and the discourage the release or burning of the powerful greenhouse gas.

University Hosts Discussion Of State Education Lawsuit - Associated Press

A court ruling about insufficient opportunities at public schools in the state is the subject of an upcoming public discussion at New Mexico State University.

Experts in public education are inviting residents to join a discussion Thursday in Las Cruces about the lawsuit and responses to it.

State lawmakers have increased spending on public-school salaries and longer academic calendars at many schools. But parents and school districts that sued the state say even more needs to be done to help disabled students and vulnerable children from low-income

households where English is not spoken.

The state trails most of the nation in average academic proficiency among students and high school graduation rates.

Criminal justice professor Dulcinea Lara says discussion will delve into implications of the district court ruling for students.

Long-Running Coal Plant On Navajo Nation Stops Production - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A coal-fired power plant in the Navajo Nation has shut down after operating for nearly 50 years.

The Navajo Generating Station near the northern Arizona community of Page stopped producing electricity on Monday.

The 2,250-megwatt plant was one of the largest in the U.S. West and a longstanding target of environmentalists.

They argued it polluted the air and contributed to health problems in nearby communities.

The plant’s owners in 2017 decided to shutter it in favor of cheaper power produced by natural gas. The closure had been expected by year’s end, but the exact day wasn’t certain as the plant depleted a coal stockpile.

The plant employed mostly Native American workers who were offered transfers to other sites in Phoenix.

The coal mine that feeds the plant also closed.