DOJ threatens (again) to withhold funds from Bernalillo County over immigration info sharing

The U.S. Department of Justice is again threatening to withhold some crimefighting funds from Bernalillo County over what the Trump administration has called “sanctuary” policies. The DOJ contacted Bernalillo County and 22 other jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, saying they violated the law that promotes sharing immigration enforcement information with the federal government. DOJ says the statute requires cooperation as a condition for receiving grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Wednesday, DOJ threatened to subpoena officials who do not comply with their documents request. The threat is the latest in the fight between the federal government and local jurisdictions they deem as “sanctuary.” There is no formal definition of a so-called “sanctuary” city or county, though the Trump administration generally uses it to refer to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal requests to aid enforcement of immigration law.

Sessions’ marijuana decision likely won’t impact medical marijuana

The U.S. Department of Justice does not appear to be concerned with medical cannabis producers or patients, including those in New Mexico, despite a memo Thursday from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session that signaled a federal crackdown on legal marijuana. Sessions’ memo officially rescinded guidance from the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama regarding cannabis. Instead, Sessions wrote, each U.S. Attorney has the discretion to determine which types of cannabis-related cases should be federally prosecuted. Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico James Tierney did not respond to a request for comment. New Mexico law only allows for medical cannabis use, which was not specifically addressed in Session’s memo.

DOJ refers criminal accusations by Pearce on fetal tissue donations to FBI

Anti-abortion activists praised the U.S. Department of Justice for sending several criminal referrals to the FBI with allegations that the University of New Mexico Hospital and Southwest Women’s Options conducted illegal activities related to fetal tissue donations. In a letter last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Stephen Boyd addressed concerns U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce raised in September. Pearce is New Mexico’s lone Republican member of the delegation. “This is a serious matter, and the Department takes these referrals seriously,” Boyd wrote to the congressman. “The Department has brought each of these referrals to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for review and any appropriate follow-up action.”

The issue goes back to a 2015 video that allegedly showed that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue.

Hopes and fears: One DACA recipient’s story

Off to the side of Highway 10, somewhere in between Las Cruces and El Paso, Michel Nieves lives in a house with his parents and four siblings. Nieves, 20, and two older siblings have protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His 16-year-old sister is awaiting approval. His 5-year-old sister is the only U.S. citizen in the household. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.

NM’s AG, others sue Trump administration over ending DACA

New Mexico’s top law enforcement officer joined 15 other attorneys general in suing the federal government to stop the Trump administration from deporting people whose parents  brought them to the country illegally as children. New Mexico Attorney General was among those who opposed President Donald Trump’s plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, created by a Barack Obama executive order, in six months. Those who remain in the country under the status can stay until their waives expire and the renewals typically last two years. After six months, the administration would no longer accept new renewals and those whose status expired would be subject to removal from the country. The lawsuit says the Trump decision, announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week, discriminates against DACA recipients and harms states and  their economies.

NM elected officials slam Trump’s decision to rescind DACA

Elected officials in New Mexico slammed Trump administration plans to end a program that allows hundreds of thousands of people to remain in the country, who were brought to the country as children and do not have documentation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday. The Department of Homeland Security will no longer process new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, after Sept. 5. The administration will, however, says it will continue to renew permits for any of those currently under DACA, known as DREAMers, for another six months.

How Jeff Sessions misrepresented the Trump administration’s expansion of military supplies for police

The Trump administration made false assertions to justify an executive order expanding police forces’ access to military equipment such as tanks and grenade launchers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that President Trump would make defensive gear available to police again by undoing a policy from the Obama administration. Trump then signed an executive order whose title emphasized that branding: “Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources.”

“He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life-saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first-responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now,” Sessions said in the speech. But that’s not what the Obama administration’s restrictions did, according to documentation from a unit inside of Sessions’ own Justice Department, the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Kevlar vests were never subject to any restrictions.

NM still tops in nation for reliance on private prisons

New Mexico incarcerates a higher percentage of inmates in privately run, for-profit prisons than any other state, according to a new analysis from the Sentencing Project. It’s a designation New Mexico has held for many years. More than 42 percent of people imprisoned here were being held in one of the state’s five private prisons at the end of 2015, according to the analysis, which is based on figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Three of those prisons are operated by GEO Group, Inc.; Core Civic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and Management and Training Corporation each run a prison in New Mexico as well. This story originally appeared in New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.

Bernalillo County commission votes against rolling back immigrant-friendly resolution

The Bernalillo County Commission reiterated its commitment to being an immigrant-friendly community. On Tuesday night, commissioners voted 4-1 against a provision that would have rolled back that status. County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican who is running for Albuquerque mayor, introduced a proposal to bring the county in alignment with the federal government’s current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally. “There is nothing in this resolution that directs or even implies that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department should be enforcing federal immigration law,” Johnson said. “Everything in this resolution puts the burden on the Department of Homeland Security and on Immigration and Customs. It allows access to detainees, identified by the DHS, and it allows notification when those identified detainees will be released 48 hours prior and then it would allow, in the very specific condition, for us to hold someone for 48 hours if the Department of Homeland Security agrees to indemnify the county against liability.”

Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.

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.