Blood for money

Fernando D., a 35-year-old father of two has crossed the border from Juárez to El Paso to donate blood plasma twice a week, every week, for two years straight. He has a dark scar on both arms where the needle pricks, but he considers it a small price to pay for the $400 a month he earns “donating” plasma in the U.S.

The money helps feed his family. “I have so many expenses,” he said. “I have to fix my truck. I have to pay the bills of the house.

Who’s the threat? Hundreds of special ed students ID’d as potential threats

ALBUQUERQUE – Jamari Nelson likes action figures and video games – the “usual kid stuff,” as the 7-year-old put it. One of his favorite activities is making slime out of glue, laundry detergent, and other household chemicals. The kitchen cabinet is stocked with plastic baggies of his multicolored goop. “I sort of really recommend this one for stress and stuff,” he said, showing off a mustard-yellow slime the consistency of Silly Putty. He likes squeezing it, feeling it ooze between his fingers, stretching it until it becomes so thin that it melts.

Restraint, Seclusion, Deception: Parents, regulators left in the dark over school behavior management techniques

ALBUQUERQUE — When Urijah Salazar arrived home from school on March 1, his mother immediately saw that something was off. A fourth-grade special education student at Montezuma Elementary, Urijah often came home from school upset, but on this day he seemed particularly rattled — shaking mad, detached, almost in a state of shock. 

Nadia McGilbert drew a bath to help him relax, and as soon as he stepped into the tub she saw the injuries: a deep, avocado-shaped bruise on his forearm, scratches, apparently from sharp fingernails, on both arms. 

“Oh my God,” she sputtered. “Is this what they did to you at school?” 

Urijah nodded and said it hurt to breathe. McGilbert shut off the bath, told him to get dressed, and grabbed her car keys. 

This story originally appeared at Searchlight New Mexico and is reprinted with permission. At UNM Hospital’s emergency room, doctors confirmed her worst suspicions.

Life behind bars: Kids serving decades for violent crimes

The youngest of six children, John Gamble was born in his parents’ bedroom. His sister, Mary, 9 years older than her kid brother, changed his diapers and helped potty-train him. He was allergic to milk, so he had his Cheerios with apple juice instead. The family lived across the street from a city park in Carlsbad, where Mary would take John to play on the swings and the merry-go-round. As he grew older, he became an avid sportsman: football, baseball, tennis, gymnastics.

Dysfunction at the PRC puts New Mexico’s clean energy plan at risk

Dysfunction and a lack of expertise within the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) threaten to undermine the state’s ambitious plan to flip the switch from coal to reenewable power. 

The Energy Transition Act — the centerpiece of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s agenda to rein in greenhouse gas emissions — phases out coal, turbocharges solar and wind development, and provides funding to retrain displaced coal plant and mine workers. It has been hailed as one of the strongest climate measures in the country. 

But six months after Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law, its success appears jeopardized by the very regulatory body charged with overseeing its implementation. 

The powerful commission must vet every aspect of the plan: the closure of the San Juan Generating Station coal plant; the complex financing to pay for decommissioning and worker assistance; and every new energy project that will provide the replacement power. But when the first proposals came before the PRC in July, the commission chose to ignore the new law, leaving the state’s energy transition in limbo. The unusual move has sparked a political furor, pitting the PRC against the governor and Legislature and leading to calls for impeachment of three of the commissioners as well as a proposal by the governor to convert the PRC from an elected body to an appointed one. 

The law’s supporters say the commission’s handling of the plan reflects deep dysfunction that could slow the state’s renewables ramp-up and jeopardize aid for displaced workers. Lujan Grisham says she finds the PRC’s actions “baffling” and suspects that long-standing tensions between the commission and Public Service Co.

This land is their land: New law aims to help more New Mexico kids get outside

GILA NATIONAL FOREST — In the shadow of a cliff, 15-year-old Nathan spools an arc of fishing line into the Gila River and waits. Tall and watchful, the teen has been quiet for most of the day during this outing, organized by Families and Youth Incorporated (FYI), a Las Cruces nonprofit that works with troubled kids. 

A little while ago, at a swimming hole downstream, Nathan stood on the bank skipping stones while the other kids whooped and splashed and jumped from depressions in the cliff face into the cool water. He doesn’t know how to swim. Now he stands in the middle of the river, wet sneakers forgotten, watching the water in front of him for any sign of movement. Finally, a tug: He reels a fist-sized fish into the bright August light.

A chill in the air: The problem of teen suicide

Just before dawn, as the Albuquerque sky filled the house with thin, pale blue light, 16-year-old Aurra Gardner took the small handgun out from behind the bed in her mother’s bedroom. Kerianne Gardner, Aurra’s mother, sat in the living room, typing an email, listening idly as her other daughters tied their shoes and packed their lunches. She heard what sounded like a door slam and assumed it was Aurra’s cello case falling over. She walked down the hall and tried the door of the bedroom. It was locked.

El Paso’s strong but wounded heart

Something clicks inside of me every time I land in El Paso. My shoulders make peace with my neck. I get off the plane and look for my cultural North Star: an actual star shape made of giant light bulbs on top of the Franklin mountains — mountains that hug the city like a protective mother nestling her young. Home, is above all things, a welcoming place. Many people say their hometown is hospitable or friendly, but El Paso’s warmth is a fundamental tenet that holds up daily life.

Death highway: A massive oil boom in the Permian Basin has turned rural roads into deadly highways

ROSWELL AND CARLSBAD — At one end of Pauline and Joe Ponce’s spacious dining room in Roswell lies a cabinet crowded with photographs and mementos of their son, Michael. An old wrestling match program rests amid snapshots of Michael with his daughter, his parents, his wife. Pauline lingers beside an image of Michael holding his then one-and-a-half-year-old son, captured in December 2017. “That was taken only two months before Michael died,” she said. On the morning of Feb.

Locking down revenue: Small towns profit from incarcerating migrants

ESTANCIA — Two years ago, the county jail in this small town shut its doors because it didn’t have enough inmates to lock up. Hundreds of jobs evaporated, and the town lost a million dollars in tax revenue and other payments. Then in May, Torrance County landed a contract with the federal government to re-open the jail — mostly to house migrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The contract was a windfall for a town where steady, well-paying jobs are few and far between. “Now that it’s comin’ back, money’s comin’ again!” exclaimed Bo Bardy, who has worked at Gustin Hardware in Estancia for the past five years.