A public records request seeking information about the potential use of surveillance technology spurred a lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department last week. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed the suit against APD in Albuquerque’s district court after the department refused to release policy information about the department’s possible use of devices capable of tracking and extracting data from cellphones.In May the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU filed a records request, asking for the department’s policies and procedures on the use of cell site simulator tracking devices. In response, APD said there were no records pertaining to how many cell site simulators often called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers or Stingrays, the department owned or used. But, APD officials also said any policies and procedures on collecting and storing data from personal cellphones is confidential and cannot be publicly released, and cited an Inspection of Public Records Request exemption. The exemption, the ACLU of New Mexico argued, narrowly exempts information about confidential sources and evidence, not general policies or guidelines.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — It’s been more than a week since President Donald Trump said he won’t seek deportation for the young people known as Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children – but not much has changed to give hope to immigrant families in New Mexico. Trump’s decision to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for some 800,000 applicants is a small relief in light of the 11 million undocumented people still subject to deportation. Micah McCoy, communications director with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said he’s seen the immigration enforcement actions increase since then. “Deportations in general have been ramped up quite a bit,” McCoy said. “And that’s having very serious consequences for families here in New Mexico.”
Jeff Taborda lives in a faded green trailer in an old, but neatly kept mobile home community in north Las Cruces. Taborda, 23, graduated in December from New Mexico State University with a degree in criminal justice, with ambitions to go into law enforcement and eventually join the FBI. He is lean and muscular, working out regularly with his younger brother, Steven. The home Taborda shares with his girlfriend is sparsely furnished, clean dishes in a rack in the sink. “As soon as I eat, I do the dishes,” he told visitors on a recent 100-degree afternoon.
Black community leaders and citizens want to know who invited out-of-town federal agents and informants into Albuquerque and how the decision was made to focus an undercover sting operation on an impoverished, largely minority section of the city, netting a highly disproportionate number of black defendants. They plan to put those and other questions into a letter to the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We want to know exactly what happened and why,” said Patrick Barrett, a member of the two organizations drafting the letter — the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Sankofa Men’s Leadership Exchange, a grassroots organization of black men. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Barrett and others interviewed for this story were reacting to a NMID investigation of the sting published last month.
House and Senate lawmakers are pushing identical proposals that would abolish solitary confinement for pregnant women and children and steeply curtail its use on people living with mental illness in New Mexico’s jails and prisons. If passed into law, supporters say either bill would provide a statutory definition for “isolated confinement” in the state and much needed transparency on the scope of the controversial practice of leaving inmates alone in their cells for 22 hours a day or more with little to no contact with others and few opportunities to participate in educational or rehabilitative programs.
“Right now, we do not know on any given day if it’s 100 or 1,000 people in isolated confinement in the state of New Mexico,” Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, the Democratic sponsor of HB175, said. “Once we have some data, we can have confidence that the Corrections Department and the counties are scaling back the use of solitary confinement.”
This piece originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission
Numerous studies, including one by the advocacy group Disability Rights Washington, have shown that isolation in a prison cell can exacerbate existing mental illnesses and create new ones where none existed before. The United Nations and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have argued that solitary confinement is particularly dangerous for children, whose brains are still developing, and condemned its use. New Mexico has a troubled history with solitary confinement.
An hours-long debate over legislation that would bar late-term abortions in New Mexico led to the same fate as last year—a Senate committee party line vote against the measures. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to table two bills by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have banned surgical abortion procedures on viable fetuses at 20 weeks of gestation or more. One of the bills defines fetal viability as “when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely by natural or artificial life-supportive systems.”
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Albuquerque is home to an abortion provider that practices the procedure into the third trimester of pregnancy. Sharer passed out pictures of his granddaughter Scarlett, who was born premature, to committee members during his presentation. He asked committee members what if Scarlett’s mother today was diagnosed with a terrible disease, evoking common arguments from pro-abortion rights advocates that late-term abortion procedures often involve pregnant women whose lives are in danger.
Lawmakers are poised to debate another contentious topic halfway through an already-polarized legislative session. Thursday morning, the House Health Committee is scheduled to hear a bill aimed at addressing late-term abortions. Specifically, the measure would require emergency medical care for any infant born showing any sign of life, which would include breathing, a heartbeat, a pulse in an umbilical cord or muscle movement. Update: Public comment on the bill took so long that the committee delayed discussion and voting on the legislation until a future hearing. Story continues as originally written below.
Two reports released on Thursday have different views of the Albuquerque Police Department’s compliance with a consent decree between the department and the U.S. Department of Justice. A status report by James Ginger, the federal monitor appointed to oversee APD’s reforms outlined in the consent decree, warns that the police department is not developing a new use of force policy fast enough. “The monitoring team have twice worked with the APD to provide guidance regarding the pending APD use of force policy,” his report states. “As of yet, no use of force police has been developed that can be approved by the monitor.”
The report from APD, however, painted a much rosier picture in its own status report, maintaining that “methodical planning, innovation and hard work” have led to “considerable gains.”
The consent decree is the result of a federal investigation that concluded in April 2014 that the police department’s practices of use of force repeatedly violated the U.S. Constitution. A settlement agreement between the DOJ and APD last fall outlined the reforms the police agency must follow through the consent decree.
A crowd of people packed the pews at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ Wednesday night to support Planned Parenthood after a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded nine others at a Colorado Springs clinic last week. The event included a candlelight vigil inside the church remembering the three who died during the Planned Parenthood shooting. Among those who spoke were Vicki Cowart, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Rev. Sue Joiner. Related: Planned Parenthood will rebuild attacked clinic
“We do not have to agree on how we move forward, but we must agree that we will do it without violence,” Joiner said. Reading from prepared statements by the leader of her denomination, Joiner called the Colorado Springs shooting “the byproduct of a collective need to shame women who seek legal, necessary, medical options when considering their reproductive health.”
Robert Dear, the shooter, reportedly said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement after the shooting.