Inside the secret Border Patrol Facebook group where agents joke about migrant deaths and post sexist memes

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings. In one exchange, group members responded with indifference and wisecracks to the post of a news story about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas. One member posted a GIF of Elmo with the quote, “Oh well.” Another responded with an image and the words “If he dies, he dies.”

Created in August 2016, the Facebook group is called “I’m 10-15” and boasts roughly 9,500 members from across the country.

NM Environment Review: Energy transitions, plastic bag ban and more

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. We love when you read the NM Environment Review on our webpage. But wouldn’t you rather see all the news a day earlier, and have it delivered straight to your inbox? To subscribe to the weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

There’s a kerfuffle between Facebook, PNM, state regulators and state officials, over who has to pay for about half the cost of a transmission line to the social media giant’s new data center in Los Lunas.The Albuquerque Journal’s Kevin Robinson-Avila covered last week’s unanimous decision by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission requiring PNM to bill Facebook for half the cost of the new line, estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars. From the story:

PRC members, who voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve the order, contend that PNM cannot bill ratepayers for the transmission project because the line will not benefit retail customers, only Facebook and wholesale electric operators who need the transmission capacity to supply renewable energy to other markets.

Facebook chooses ABQ for program to aid small businesses

Facebook is aiming to help small businesses improve “digital skills” in Albuquerque and several other cities around the country. That’s the word from Mark Zuckerberg, the social media giant’s CEO. Zuckerberg announced the decision, of course, on Facebook. “Today we’re announcing a new program called Facebook Community Boost to help small businesses in the US grow, and to help more people get the digital skills those businesses need. Since 2011, Facebook has invested more than $1 billion dollars to support small businesses,” he wrote.

Carlsbad city councilor on Facebook: Women ‘have a right to get slapped’

When a local politician makes statewide news, it rarely is good news. Such is the case for J.R. Doporto, a city councilor from Carlsbad who landed himself in a firestorm after writing a misogynistic Facebook post telling women they “have a right to get slapped.”

He wrote the comment on his personal Facebook page, which is now marked private or deleted. But, on the internet, such posts are forever. Screenshots show Doporto, in apparent response to the massive Women’s March in Washington D.C. and across the country, wrote:
Just want to give a heads up to the women! You have rights!

Martinez calls for unity

One week after accusing lawmakers of failing to make tough decisions as New Mexico slid into financial crisis, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez struck a conciliatory tone in her annual State of the State address Tuesday, calling on legislators to work together as the state faces a projected deficit that will top the agenda for the 60-day legislative session ahead. Rattling off issues on which Republican and Democratic lawmakers had reached agreement in the recent past, Martinez urged bipartisan compromise during the session’s opening day. But with the governor also calling on lawmakers to reinstate the death penalty for some crimes and reiterating her opposition to raising taxes, her pleas for cooperation with Democratic majorities in both the state Senate and House of Representatives will be quickly tested. Related: Dem response: ‘The state of our state is unacceptable’

This year’s session may be the last big opportunity for Martinez to advance some of her big-ticket legislative proposals. Only a 30-day session, which are typically dedicated to the budget, will remain before the two-term governor leaves office at the end of 2018.

What do Trump’s trade proposals mean for New Mexico?

Just months before Donald Trump’s surprise victory to the nation’s top office, Gov. Susana Martinez penned an op-ed about a bright spot in New Mexico’s otherwise weak economy. That bright spot is also a geographical location—the border. “We are quickly positioning our state as a gateway of international trade throughout the Americas,” Martinez wrote in June, “and we are embracing our newly found leadership role, which wouldn’t be possible without the cross-border relationships we’ve built.”
Related: Why Trump would almost certainly be violating the Constitution if he continues to own his businesses (by ProPublica)
Last year, for example, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, respectively, ranked as the two metropolitan areas in the nation with the highest economic growth in exports. In 2012 and 2014, New Mexico also led the nation in export growth. Nearly half of these exports—45 percent—are shipped south of the border.

Guv names new Economic Development head

Gov. Susana Martinez tapped the city of Rio Rancho’s former economic development and business relations manager to head the state’s Economic Development Department. Martinez announced the appointment of Matt Geisel as the secretary-designate of the Economic Development Department on Tuesday. “Matt knows firsthand what it takes to bring new jobs and investment to our state,” Martinez said in a statement. “He was with me when we first met with executives from Facebook in the Bay Area; he’s a proven leader who will continue to spread the message that New Mexico is open for business.”

Geisel said he was “humbled and honored” by the governor’s appointment. “I’m looking forward to continuing efforts to diversify New Mexico’s economy,” Geisel said.

Facebook announces data center coming to New Mexico

New Mexico received a much-needed jolt of good news in an otherwise bleak economic situation when Facebook announced Wednesday they would build a data center in Los Lunas. The news, announced by Facebook and Gov. Susana Martinez, received praise from just about every politician in New Mexico. In the announcement, Martinez said she met with Facebook executives in August of last year. “When we first sat down with Facebook executives 13 months ago, we weren’t even on their radar. But we made a strong case and laid out how competitive we have become,” Martinez said in a statement.

Call for death penalty echoes Legislature’s ‘tough on crime’ session

If Gov. Susana Martinez’s call to reinstate the death penalty after the killing of an on-duty police officer looks familiar, that’s because something very similar happened last year. After the 2015 high-profile killings of Rio Rancho police officer Gregg Benne and Albuquerque police officer Daniel Webster, Martinez and Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives made tough-on-crime measures their signature effort during the ensuing legislative session. Now, another high-profile death of a cop—this time Hatch police officer Jose Chavez—presents a similar political opportunity. And this time, it comes ahead of a general election where Republicans are aiming to preserve their majority in the state House of Representatives and win control of the state Senate. In a prepared statement announcing her intentions, Martinez also evoked the recent Dallas massacre of five cops during a protest prompted by police shootings of two unarmed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Supreme Court weighs in on Skype testimony, judges using Facebook

Lawyers cannot use Skype or similar services for expert witnesses testifying against a defendant, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. The ruling came after an expert witness in a murder and kidnapping trial used Skype to testify on the evidence against the defendant. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that since the defendant did not waive his constitutional right to confront witnesses, the testimony is invalid. The witness was no longer in the state, however the state’s high court ruled, “Inconvenience to the witness is not sufficient reason to dispense with this constitutional right.“

The Supreme Court ruled the kidnapping case did not have enough evidence for a conviction and remanded the murder charge back to district court for a new trial. “The United States Supreme Court has never adopted a specific standard for two-way video testimony, but we doubt it would find any virtual testimony an adequate substitute for face-to-face confrontation without at least the showing of necessity that Craig requires,” Chief Justice Charles Daniels wrote in the opinion, referring to Maryland v. Craig that affirmed the use of one-way video for testimony by the accuser in a child sex abuse case.