Legislators hold hearing, hear public comments on private prisons that hold immigrants

An interim committee hearing included harsh criticisms and personal stories of detention at private facilities which have contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee held a hearing Monday afternoon concerning two privately-operated prisons in New Mexico that detain immigrants. These include Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, which is run by CoreCivic, and the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, which is run by Management and Training Corporation. Legislators heard from an immigration attorney, advocates for immigrants and some in the country without authorization. The committee invited Ronald D. Vitello, the acting director of ICE, but he did not attend or even acknowledge the invitation.

Questions remain on federal anti-sex trafficking legislation as Senate vote nears

Correction: In referencing a Ms. article from 2011, this story originally said that Chris Garcia was one of the operators of an allegedly illegal website, Southwest Companions. Garcia was charged by police of being an operator of the site, which they alleged was a house of prostitution, but a state district court judge threw out all the charges. The reference has been removed. It’s rare lately for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to find consensus, though some phrases like “infrastructure” and “small businesses” still inspire legislators to declare their willingness to work together. “Sex trafficking” is another one of those.

Some Martinez vetoes get pushback

Some vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez are raising eyebrows among legislators and others—and at least one partial veto may be challenged in court. Wednesday was the final day for Martinez to decide whether or not to sign bills from this year’s legislative session. She signed 80 bills into law, but vetoed 31 others. Some she rejected using her veto pen, while with others she just allowed time to run out in what is called a “pocket veto.”

One portion of a bill that may see a new life was part of the crime omnibus bill the Legislature passed in response to the spike in crime, particularly in Albuquerque. The bill combined a number of ideas aimed at reducing crimes.

Supreme Court rejects Ten Commandments monument appeal

The case of a statue of the Ten Commandments in Bloomfield came to an end Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court denied statue supporters’ an appeal to the high court. The city of Bloomfield was ordered by a federal district court to remove the monument in 2014, citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling two years later, leaving the city’s final option to push for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico announced Monday that the attempted appeal was rejected. “This is a victory for the religious liberty of people everywhere,” ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let the rulings against the monument stand sends a strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community.

Under Protest

If you could get high on a city, Fiestas weekend on the Plaza is where you would go to breathe in the essence of Santa Fe. This past Saturday, generations of families and others came to laze around in the late-afternoon sunlight. The smells of fry bread and meat wafted in the air as chomped corn cobs piled up in trash cans. Folklorico music and mariachi trumpets mixed with Baby Boomer-era hits like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” as small children bounded on the grass, a few shooting at each other with toy guns. This story originally appeared at the Santa Fe Reporter and is reprinted with permission.

Walgreens faces sex discrimination complaint after refusal to fill prescription

Two advocacy organizations filed discrimination complaints against an Albuquerque Walgreens pharmacy for allegedly refusing to fill a birth control prescription. The complaint, sent to the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, was written by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Southwest Women’s Law Center. The organizations allege a pharmacy employee at a store on Coors Boulevard refused to fill a misoprostol prescription to a teenage woman who was at the store with her mother last August, citing personal reasons. This refusal, according to two complaints, violates the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex. “Refusing to fill prescriptions that are directly tied to the attributes that make women different from men—i.e. the ability to become pregnant—constitutes sex discrimination,” the complaints read.

Bernalillo County passes ‘immigrant-friendly’ resolution

After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”

Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.

House panel passes bill to remove pre Roe v. Wade law criminalizing abortion

A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills

But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.

AG Sessions’ remarks leave questions about ABQ police reform

Comments from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week that he intends to “pull back on” federal oversight of police departments drew mixed reactions from officers and civil rights advocates in Albuquerque, where a police reform agreement between the city and the Justice Department is nearing the midway point of its third year. Reform proponents told New Mexico In Depth they were troubled by Sessions’ remarks, and they are ready to step in to ensure that APD adheres to constitutional policing if the federal government steps away. The president of the Albuquerque police union, meanwhile, said officers were pleased with the tone of support from the attorney general. The rank and file hope his comments could signal a softening of what they see as the agreement’s more onerous requirements. So far, though, the agreement and its effect on APD personnel have continued unabated since Donald Trump took office on Jan.

Bill would force internet devices to filter pornography, other ‘obscene’ material

A New Mexico legislator is getting on board with an effort to force manufacturers of electronics that connect to the internet to install filtering devices that would block online “obscenity.”

State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, told NM Political Report he plans to sponsor a bill that would do so in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. The bill, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, is backed by a group attempting to introduce identical bills in the legislatures of at least 23 other states this coming year. Nine state legislators and 11 lobbyists are listed as members of the national group, which bears the same name as the legislation, according to the group’s website. Gallegos said his previous attempts at curbing human trafficking got him interested in sponsoring this bill. But a look at an unfiled draft of Gallegos’ legislation shows that it goes much farther than just dealing with human trafficking.