New Mexico Democrats in Congress sign onto amicus brief supporting Roe v. Wade

The New Mexico Democratic Congressional delegation signed onto an amicus brief urging  the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That case will be heard December 1. But the court has traditionally made its ruling on abortion cases at the end of the term in late June or early July. The state of Mississippi, in its case against the sole clinic that provides abortions in that state, has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Mississippi lawmakers passed an unconstitutional law in 2018 making abortion at 15 weeks gestation illegal in that state.

Officials urge DHS to end program that puts asylum seekers at greater risk

Several elected New Mexico officials signed onto a letter sent by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking for the end of border expulsions under Title 42. Title 42 is a program started under former President Donald Trump which has continued under President Joe Biden. Under Title 42, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) expels asylum seekers at the border rather than allowing them to enter the country and go through the process of applying for asylum in the U.S.

Under Biden, some exemptions became available though CBP still turned away the majority who requested asylum at a port of entry. But Katie Hoeppner, a spokesperson for ACLU-New Mexico, told NM Politlcal Report in an email that the situation “is now deeply troubling because there is no way for people seeking asylum to safely approach ports of entry and request protection, no matter how vulnerable they are.”

The letter states that allowing asylum seekers to enter into the U.S. is not only a legal responsibility but that it can be done safely. The letter states that recent research shows that 99 percent of asylum seekers who were not detained or released from immigration custody showed up for their hearings in 2019.

New executive order to direct demographic information on the LGBTQ+ community

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Monday, effective immediately, directing state agencies to collect voluntary data for informational purposes on the LGBTQ+ community. The state Department of Health will be the lead agency, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary Nora Meyers Sackett wrote to NM Political Report. But all state agencies will be providing the voluntary questions asking individuals during in-take processes about sexual orientation and gender identity. The order mirrors SB 316, the Gender and Orientation Data Collection bill which state Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, sponsored in the 2021 Legislature. That bill passed the Senate but died on the House floor before a vote.

With shelter beds available in New Mexico, asylum seekers wait across the border in dangerous conditions because of a Trump-imposed policy

Hundreds of available shelter beds in New Mexico are empty while families, including a Honduran mother and her child, seek asylum in the U.S. are forced to wait across the border with Mexico in Ciudad Juárez. Advocates have said there is a humanitarian crisis happening along the border. The Donald Trump administration’s border policies, which many describe as racist, inflammatory and discriminatory, were implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic to stop migrants along the southern border from crossing. The administration said the policies were in place to stop the spread of the disease, though the federal government implemented very few restrictions on international flights for international travelers and none for U.S. travelers. 

While President Joe Biden has reversed most of Trump’s COVID-19 border policies, he has not ended Title 42, which has kept the border closed for people like Ana Judyth Ayala Delcid, 24, and her two-year-old daughter, who journeyed through perilous conditions from Honduras through Mexico this past spring to seek asylum in the U.S.

Ayala Delcid told NM Political Report, through an interpreter provided by El Calvario Methodist Church shelter in Las Cruces, that she left her home with her young daughter and began the journey across Mexico, despite her fears of how hard it might be, because in two separate incidents, gang members killed her aunt and invaded her house at night. She said she is afraid to return.

U.S. Health and Human Services stays restrictions on mifepristone

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to put a lawsuit on hold late last week that could have longer term implications for the abortion medication mifepristone. On Friday the HHS, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration, filed in Hawaii district court a request to stay a lawsuit that has been ongoing around mifepristone since 2017.  The ACLU, which also filed for the stay, is suing the U.S. Health and Human Services on behalf of a Hawaii clinician. The ACLU and the Hawaii clinician are suing because the FDA’s in-person pickup requirement for mifepristone requires patients in Hawaii to have to fly between islands to receive a single pill. Once a patient has picked up mifepristone at a clinic, they can go home to take it. The FDA requires abortion patients to travel to a clinic to pick up mifepristone because the abortion medication is under the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), drug safety program intended for medications with serious safety concerns. 

Mifepristone has been in the FDA’s REMS program since the FDA approved the prescription drug in 2000.

New Mexico one of few states to pass pro-reproductive rights legislation this year

With more than 500 pieces of anti-abortion legislation under consideration in state legislatures around the country, New Mexico’s passage of SB 10, which decriminalized abortion, bucked the nationwide trend. Only one other state passed abortion rights legislation this year. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider and rule on an unconstitutional abortion ban in the next few years, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President and Chief Executive Officer Vicki Cowart called the passage and signing of New Mexico’s bill to repeal an abortion ban “critical,” and a “key to protecting reproductive rights.”

Related: Governor signs bill repealing abortion ban into law: ‘a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body’

Cowart told NM Political Report by email that this year, Virginia is the only other state that has passed a bill expanding abortion access in 2021. But since the beginning of the year, 12 states have passed anti-abortion legislation, according to a Planned Parenthood report. There are a few other states with pro-reproductive legislation under consideration, Robin Marty, author of “Handbook for a Post-Roe America” and “The End of Roe v. Wade,” said.

Governor, legislators speak about end of session

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators spoke about legislative successes and what they expect to happen with bills that didn’t cross the finish line, including a pending special session to pass recreational cannabis. 

Lujan Grisham said she was proud of how much work was done in a session marred by a pandemic. 

“It’s incredibly difficult and challenging, to debate, to draft, to engage in policy making,” she said. “It’s everything from economic relief, education and health care in an environment where you absolutely have to meet the COVID safe practices.”

Particularly, Lujan Grisham praised lawmakers for passing a liquor law reform, approving a proposed constitutional amendment to use state funds to pay for early childhood education and decriminalizing abortion.   

Democratic House of Representatives leadership held a press conference a few minutes after adjourning sine die on the House chamber floor to discuss Democratic accomplishments for this session. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, said the focus for this session was recovery. 

The three-pronged approach to recovery, Egolf said, was education, health and the economy. Of the more than 170 pieces of legislation that passed this year, some of the bills highlighted during the press conference included passage of SB 10, the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed the 1969 statute banning abortion, as well as HB 4 the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which ends qualified immunity as a legal defense in the state and allows for financial remedy up to $2 million and the potential to recover attorney’s fees if a person’s constitutional rights have been violated. Lujan Grisham signed SB 10 into law in February.

Cowboys for Trump leader to remain in custody until trial

An Otero County Commissioner who also leads a pro-Trump organization will remain in federal custody ahead of his trial for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Couy Griffin, an outspoken and controversial supporter of Donald Trump, was arrested in January for entering a secure area on Jan. 6 when supporters of Trump overwhelmed police and took control of the U.S. Capitol when members of Congress were tasked with counting electoral votes. Trump and some Republicans alleged without evidence that the former president  lost the election because of voting irregularities.

Trump impeached for second time

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time, with two of the three representatives, both Democrats, in New Mexico’s delegation voting in favor of the historic vote on Wednesday. The House voted 237-197 to impeach Trump, saying that Trump incited violence and the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week when his supporters took control of the building, driving lawmakers into hiding while some called for the death of Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Trump is the first person to be impeached twice. Ten Republicans voted along with all Democrats to impeach Trump, after no Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate voted to acquit Trump of those charges in February of 2020.

Trump campaign drops election lawsuit nearly 70 days after election day

Donald Trump’s campaign dropped a lawsuit over the use of ballot drop boxes in New Mexico’s elections—part of the campaign’s nationwide, unsuccessful efforts to overturn election results after he lost his reelection bid. 

The campaign filed the lawsuit in mid-December, weeks after the election and after the state had certified its election results and the same day New Mexico’s electors cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Biden. The lawsuit centered on the legality of ballot dropboxes for absentee ballots, and echoed a lawsuit filed in state court by the party. The party withdrew that lawsuit ahead of the election after it said the party came to a “consensual resolution” with the Secretary of State. Like the other lawsuits, dozens of which the campaign had dismissed or lost, the lawsuit was aimed at overturning election results. But unlike in some states with relatively close margins of victory for Joe Biden, Trump lost the election in New Mexico by nearly 100,000 votes and over 11 percentage points.