Groups rally outside Cibola County jail

Without intervention, as much as 100 percent of immigrants in detention centers could test positive for COVID-19 within the next 90 days and overwhelm state healthcare systems, according to a recent study. The study, produced by the Washington D.C., nonprofit advocacy group the Government Accountability Project, states that, optimistically, 72 percent could become infected with COVID-19 in immigrant detention facilities. The projected 100 percent reflects the pessimistic estimation, the study says. Those projections mean that state health care systems would be overwhelmed, the study reports. A group of advocacy organizations organized a rally, called “Free Them All Friday,” which consisted of about 30 cars that drove around the Cibola County Correctional Center, which holds immigrant detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Friday afternoon to try to bring attention to this problem.

Grants mayor facing two legal battles after defying state emergency order

Grants Mayor Martin “Modey” Hicks’ refusal to close municipal departments, like the city-run golf course, led to him being named in two different legal filings. One case is a lawsuit filed by the former city manager and the other a petition from the state’s attorney general asking the state Supreme Court to order Hicks to comply with a state emergency order. 

Last week, Hicks publicly announced that he would defy the state’s Department of Health order limiting the scope of what services and business can be open during the COVID-19 pandemic. True to his word, Hicks allowed businesses to open and reportedly told city employees to report to work, in-person. 

On Wednesday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a writ of mandamus, or a petition asking the high court to intervene on the basis that Hicks is not fulfilling his duty as mayor. 

Balderas argued in his petition that Hicks “is knowingly and intentionally violating the State’s public health emergency orders.” 

“He is directing city employees to violate these orders, and fired the city manager who refused to do so,” the petition read. “He is instructing and encouraging city businesses to reopen in violation of the orders, and proclaiming his constitutional authority to do so. Finally, he has invited a legal resolution of his dispute with the State.”

On Thursday, the day after Balderas’ petition, recently fired city manager Laura Jaramillo filed a whistleblower lawsuit against both the city and Hicks. 

In her suit, Jaramillo alleged that Hicks fired her after she refused to go against the state public health emergency order, even after state police issued a citation and warning against opening the course. 

“Upon information and belief, Hicks just wanted to open the golf course as a political stunt and to thumb his nose at the Governor,” the lawsuit alleges.

“A black hole of due process” in New Mexico

In December 2016, a 24-year-old small business owner, who asked to be identified as “Boris,” joined a protest in his native Cameroon. The country’s English-speaking minority of nearly 5 million people had begun coalescing into a movement for equal rights, “to tell the government our griefs, to make them understand that we have pain in our hearts,” Boris, who was recently granted asylum after five months inside Cibola County’s immigrant detention center, tells New Mexico In Depth. Teachers and lawyers led the first wave of dissent that October. The educators fought for their students to learn in English. The attorneys argued their clients should stand before judges who spoke their own language.