Under Trump, tribal land ownership is not a priority

During President Barack Obama’s eight-year tenure, tribal sovereignty, the power by which tribes govern themselves, was a prime concern. But under the Trump administration, that may change. There are several indicators of this shift, including proposed budget cuts to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and the de-prioritization of major land initiatives. Within the first six months of President Donald Trump’s administration, the Department of Interior has renewed its interest of energy development and tribal land privatization. That differs starkly from Obama policies, which focused on both acquiring and consolidating land for tribal nations.

DOJ threatens to withhold crime-fighting resources over ABQ immigration policies

The Department of Justice says for the city of Albuquerque to qualify for a partnership to combat violent crime, the city will have to comply with efforts federal immigration enforcement for immigrants who are detained. To qualify for the cooperation and funding, the DOJ says Albuquerque, and three other cities, must answer questions on how the city cooperates with federal authorities on immigration

“By protecting criminals from immigration enforcement, cities and states with so-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “We saw that just last week, when an illegal alien who had been deported twenty times and was wanted by immigration authorities allegedly sexually assaulted an elderly woman in Portland, a city that refuses to cooperate with immigration enforcement.”

The term “sanctuary-city” does not have a specific definition, but the term is usually used to refer to municipalities that don’t fully cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on enforcing federal immigration laws. The federal program in question is the Public Safety Partnership, announced in June by the DOJ. The City of Albuquerque currently does not use city resources to help federal authorities apprehend or identify undocumented immigrants unless otherwise required by law.

Will Democrats expand House majority in 2018?

After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton and Democrats failed to take control of the Senate, many saw 2016 as a disastrous election for Democrats. At least nationwide. But in New Mexico the party retook control the state House of Representatives and expanded their majority in the Senate. Statewide, Clinton defeated Trump by 8 percent, even though over 9 percent of voters backed Libertarian nominee and former Gov. Gary Johnson. While the election took place ten months ago and may seem like old news, the results can provide a glimpse into which races will be competitive in 2018.

Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials

Plutonium capable of being used in a nuclear weapon, conventional explosives, and highly toxic chemicals have been improperly packaged or shipped by nuclear weapons contractors at least 25 times in the past five years, according to government documents. While the materials were not ultimately lost, the documents reveal repeated instances in which hazardous substances vital to making nuclear bombs and their components were mislabeled before shipment. That means those transporting and receiving them were not warned of the safety risks and did not take required precautions to protect themselves or the public, the reports say. The risks were discovered after regulators conducted inspections during transit, when the packages were opened at their destinations, during scientific analysis after the items were removed from packaging, or — in the worst cases — after releases of radioactive contaminants by unwary recipients, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation showed. Only a few, slight penalties appear to have been imposed for these mistakes.

Local leaders await answers from visiting Interior Secretary

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke is visiting New Mexico this week as part of his review of national monuments throughout the country, including New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments. Zinke will visit northern New Mexico—but not Rio Grande del Norte itself— Saturday with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall. The Interior head’s schedule primarily focuses on southern New Mexico and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. That has led to speculation the secretary will not order a review of Rio Grande del Norte near Taos, but will call for changes to the 496,000-acre monument in southern New Mexico. President Barack Obama designated the monument near Las Cruces in 2014 after a decade of planning and public meetings.

It runs in the family: Decades apart, father and son lead sanctuary efforts

Glen Thamert wears a perpetual smile and favors a hug over a handshake. The retired Lutheran minister has lived in Jemez Springs since 2001 and raised both his adult children in Albuquerque. Next month will mark 29 years since Thamert was acquitted in an Albuquerque federal courtroom after helping two women, whose lives were in danger, leave their home country of El Salvador. Thamert’s trial was part of the sanctuary movement that sprung up in the 1980s when military forces killed hundreds of thousands of people in Central and South America. Community leaders and others often use the word “altruistic” to describe him.

Campaign finance reporting changes prove controversial

On the surface, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s proposed changes to campaign finance reporting rules appear to be a wonky topic. But to some outspoken opponents it’s a free speech violation. Burly Cain, the New Mexico state director of Americans for Prosperity, compared the proposed changes to forcing an 80-year-old woman to “wear an armband to say what she believes on her arm.”

Officials with the secretary of state’s office say they are simply attempting to update outdated sections of the state’s Campaign Reporting Act that are no longer legally valid after high-profile court decisions. This includes the state law definition of “political committee,” which is broadly defined as two or more people who are “selected, appointed, chosen, associated, organized or operated primarily” for influencing an election or political convention. This definition was found to be “unconstitutionally broad” in New Mexico Youth Organized v. Herrera, a 2009 court case, according to Secretary of State Chief Information Officer Kari Fresquez.

ABQ mayoral money coming from beyond NM

Out-of-state money in local elections is nothing new. Statewide and legislative races in New Mexico are often funded, to varying degrees, by individuals or Political Action Committees from other parts of the country. With less than three months before the mayoral race, candidates are filing their campaign contribution reports with varying donation amounts from around New Mexico—and in some cases all around the country. Both New Mexico and Albuquerque campaign finance laws allow for out of city and out of state contributions. Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said members of the public may not like the idea of out-of-state money funding a mayoral campaign, but that ultimately without a clear instance of quid pro quo it’s allowed.

Refugee’s religious sanctuary self-imposed by ICE

Last week Albuquerque resident and Iraqi refugee Kadhim Albumohammed, through his lawyer, announced he would seek religious sanctuary instead of submitting to federal detention by immigration officials. In a letter delivered by his lawyer, Albumohammed informed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of his location but opted against publicly announcing where he is living. The idea of seeking refuge in a religious facility to avoid detention from immigration officials actually comes from ICE itself. In 2011, then-ICE director John Morton issued a memo to the agency’s field officers, agents and legal counsel, providing guidance on “sensitive locations,” or areas where agents should not make arrests except under extraordinary circumstances. It’s unclear to what extent ICE is monitoring Albumohammed’s location, but in a statement last week, the agency made it clear they are taking Albumohammed’s case seriously.

Beyond the concepts of ‘land management’ are real people, sacrifice

On the edge of the Valle Grande in northern New Mexico stands a grove of towering ponderosa pines. The trees, many of them between 250 and 400 years old, comprise what’s called the History Grove, and they offer a snapshot into what the forests of the Jemez Mountains looked like centuries ago—before widespread grazing in the late 19th century and decades of fire suppression by the federal government. During a recent trip there, I was reminded of what goes into protecting and maintaining our forests and landscapes. Land management, as it’s called, is made of up of meetings and programs, line-item budgets and public comment periods. And sometimes, expensive lawsuits and bitter battles.