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Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.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

Has the moment for environmental justice been lost?

Given how President Donald Trump has taken aim at the Environmental Protection Agency with regulatory rollbacks and deep proposed budget cuts, it may come as no surprise that the Office of Environmental Justice is on the chopping block. This tiny corner of the EPA was established 24 years ago to advocate for minorities and the poor, populations most likely to face the consequences of pollution and least able to advocate for themselves. It does so by acting as a middleman, connecting vulnerable communities with those who can help them. It heads a group that advises EPA officials about injustices and another that brings together representatives from other federal agencies and the White House to swap proposals. When it works, all the talk leads to grants, policies and programs that change lives.

Victims in thousands of potential hate crimes never notify police

More than half of the people who said they were the victim of a hate crime in recent years did not report the incidents to police. When victims did report to the police, their assailants were arrested in just 10 percent of the cases. The incidents reported as hate crimes were almost always violent (90 percent) and often seriously so, with nearly 30 percent involving reports of sexual assault, aggravated assault and/or robbery. Those are some of the striking findings of a special federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report released Thursday, based on national crime victimization surveys conducted for the years 2011 to 2015. The report came as the Department of Justice convened a hate crimes conference in Washington, D.C. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at the start of the conference and repeated his pledge to combat hate crimes aggressively.

Trump administration quietly rolls back civil rights efforts across federal government

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious. Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight. The move is just one part of a move by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other departments have scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses.

Heinrich spars with Sessions over refusal to answer questions

In yet another high-profile Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that received gavel-to-gavel coverage from news networks, one of New Mexico’s U.S senators played a featured role. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified in front of the committee, with Democrats pressing the former Republican U.S. Senator on a variety of issues, including his contacts with Russian officials. In a number of cases, Sessions declined to answer, frustrating senators  who sought answers. Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico’s junior U.S. Senator, said Sessions’ refusal to answer questions amounted to “impeding” and “obstructing” congressional investigations. Heinrich’s questions to Sessions began with the senator asking if President Donald Trump “ever expressed his frustration” after Sessions announced he would recuse himself from the investigation into ties between those close to Trump and Russia during the elections.

Senators seek answers on Sessions’ role in Comey firing

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led 11 senators in calling for an investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey violated his recusal from any investigation into Russian ties with those close to President Donald Trump. The letter, which was also signed by New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, was sent to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday. In the letter, the senators said Session’s “recusal language itself could not be clearer.”

They also seek answers to three questions: to what extent Sessions was required to recuse himself from the investigation, the scope of his recusal and the timeline of his involvement in Comey’s firing. The letter notes that Sessions met with Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss the removal of Comey on May 8.

Santa Fe signs onto suit to block Trump order punishing ‘sanctuary’ cities

The city of Santa Fe joined 33 other cities and counties in a lawsuit against the federal government over President Donald Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, a Democrat, has been an outspoken opponent of Trump’s war on sanctuary cities. Trump promised to halt federal funding to the areas, arguing that by not aiding federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws, the communities are protecting criminals. The amicus brief in the lawsuit brought by Santa Clara County in California says Trump’s executive order violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and does not provide procedural due process. The brief asks for a nationwide injunction.

Sessions asks remaining Obama-era U.S. Attorneys to resign

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the remaining U.S. Attorneys appointed by Barack Obama to resign on Friday. Damon Martinez, the U.S. Attorney from New Mexico, resigned Friday, according to a statement from his office. First Assistant U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney is the Acting U.S. Attorney until a new U.S. Attorney is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. A U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman announced in a statement Friday afternoon “many” of the Obama-nominated U.S. Attorneys had already left their positions. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. Attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition,” Sarah Isgur Flores said.

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.