Democrats are set to control an even larger majority of the state Legislature in addition to control of the governor’s office, so Republican-backed efforts are not likely to become law next year. But right-to-work legislation on the local level has not lost steam and at least one group is focusing on Spanish speakers in southern New Mexico. The Libre Initiative, a non-profit group that proclaims advocacy for the “U.S. Hispanic community” and “limited government, property rights, rule of law, sound money supply and free enterprise,” started running an ad Thursday on a Spanish-speaking radio station in Las Cruces. The ad asks listeners to call on Doña Ana County commissioners to pass a local right-to-work law. “Hola, soy Carlos con La Iniciativa LIBRE,” the ad begins.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies and enforcement while speaking at the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition and the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition spring conference in Las Cruces
Sessions reiterated pledges to increase prosecutions of those who enter the country illegally in an attempt to deter others from even attempting to enter. “If you break into our country, we will prosecute you,” Sessions said. Sessions said that Trump “expects us to not just play around with this problem, but to fix it and that’s certainly my goal.”
One way he said Trump would help solve illegal immigration is by building a border wall. He said the lack of such a wall was “an open invitation to illegal crossings.”
He also praised the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Mexico, which he said “already demonstrated its effectiveness over the last two years.” He said the office’s prosecutions of illegal crossings increased seven-fold from two years ago. Sessions described several so-called “loopholes” in the immigration process, including what he called a “credible fear loophole.” He was referring to a longstanding U.S. policy that allows people who have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country to gain asylum admittance.
Democratic candidates enjoyed a good night nationwide and in New Mexico on Tuesday. In New Mexico, three Democrats won three city council elections in Las Cruces. In one case, they flipped a Republican city council seat to Democratic. Gabe Vasquez, Gill Sorg and Yvonne Flores, all of whom ran on progressive platforms, won Tuesday night according to unofficial numbers. The races are officially nonpartisan, but party lines were evident in the campaigns.
Throughout the state Saturday, activists and others marched as part of the worldwide “March for Science” that coincided with Earth Day. The largest rally in New Mexico took place in Albuquerque, at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza. In Las Cruces on Saturday morning, more than 500 people marched around downtown, then joined a rally with speakers and music. In Santa Fe, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, addressed the crowd, saying that science isn’t a partisan issue and that all “policymakers need scientists so we can make good decisions.”
He also said the federal scientists, working at agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health, should “be able to do their work for the American people without worrying about political interference.”
Udall said that climate change is the “moral, political and scientific challenge of our time, and we must face it head on, aggressively.”
Albuquerque’s event featured several people wearing colorful costumes, including one person dressed as a dinosaur and a couple dressed as both the Grim Reaper and a medieval plague doctor. Jackie Coombes, a microbiologist dressed as the plague doctor, said she is worried about the consequences of the federal government cutting funding on vaccines.
A Las Cruces office for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce was egged this week, according to reports. The Las Cruces Sun-News reported the Las Cruces Police Department said the front door of the office was the only area to be egged. In addition to LCPD, Pearce’s office contacted the U.S. Capitol Police. Pearce denounced the actions in a statement to NM Political Report, saying the “act of vandalism is beyond civil discourse.”
“All of my congressional offices belong to the people of NM-02, and are essential to the everyday operations of assisting people with their social security, veteran benefits, and much more,” Pearce said in the emailed statement. “I thank my Las Cruces staff for cleaning up the mess so that we can resume work as usual for constituents.”
While Pearce’s office said they don’t know who egged the office, the Doña Ana County Republican Party said on Facebook, “This behavior has been a consistent pattern from the Democrat party and their affiliate groups.”
In February, hundreds of people held a protest outside the Las Cruces office and called for Pearce to hold a town hall.
Three of the state’s largest cities highlighted their opposition to Donald Trump’s immigration and border policies this week. The moves come as President Donald Trump has given more power to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to apprehend immigrants in the country illegally. The move appears to show wider enforcement against both those with criminal records and those without. In Albuquerque, the city council* approved a memorial reaffirming the city’s “immigrant-friendly” status. The move came in front of a packed crowd that included many who were unable to fit in the chambers.
Attorneys for the states of New Mexico and Texas learned yesterday that a lawsuit over the waters of the Rio Grande will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. For New Mexico, a lot is at stake. Though Texas also named Colorado in the suit, its real target is New Mexico. Texas alleges that by allowing farmers in southern New Mexico to pump groundwater connected to the river, the state is unfairly taking water from the Rio Grande that, under the 1938 Rio Grande Compact, should be flowing to Texas. When Texas filed a similar suit against New Mexico about the Pecos River, the case dragged on for almost two decades, and cost both states millions of dollars.
As Democrats gear up for a legislative session after retaking the state House of Representatives and expanding their majority in the state Senate, several members are looking at ways to increase New Mexico’s minimum wage. Two lawmakers have already pre-filed legislation to do so ahead of the session, which begins Jan. 17. One measure would double New Mexico’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $15 an hour by January 2018. Another more cautious bill ups the minimum wage to $8.45 an hour.
Mike Pence showed up in Las Cruces Wednesday for a campaign rally in an airport hangar and sounded confident that New Mexicans would vote for Donald Trump. “This movement is coming together,” Pence said according to the Albuquerque Journal. “New Mexico is coming together, and we’re going to make Donald Trump the next president of the United States of America.”
It was the third trip by Pence to New Mexico and the first to Las Cruces, as the Trump campaign seeks to put New Mexico in play after two large victories by Barack Obama in the state in 2008 and 2012. Both the Trump campaign and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign are airing ads in New Mexico. Polling has shown Clinton leading in New Mexico.
One of the key races that will decide the political control of the state House of Representatives pits an upstart against a Roundhouse veteran in southern New Mexico. The incumbent, Republican Andy Nuñez, has represented the district for most of the past decade and a half. He faces former Nathan Small, a Democrat who recently served two terms on the Las Cruces city council. NM Political Report will profile some key legislative races from now until election day. Nuñez, 80, is perhaps best known for switching his political affiliation multiple times over in the past few years, from Democrat to independent to Republican.