Trump-era immigration policy ends with pandemic, advocates concerned for asylum seekers

The public health order that has prevented asylum seekers from crossing the border through ports of entry ends at midnight Thursday. The public health order, called Title 42, ends at midnight ET on May 11. President Donald Trump invoked it at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, claiming it would help stop the spread of the respiratory disease but many critics have called it a racist ploy to stop immigration along the southern border. President Joe Biden tried to end Title 42 after he took office but legal challenges by Republicans led to the courts overturning Biden’s plans. The policy ends on Thursday because the U.S. Health and Human Services is allowing the federal public health emergency for COVID-19 to end on Thursday as well.

Screenshot of President Joe Biden during a press conference May 9, 2023. The press conference followed a closed-door meeting between Biden and congressional leadership to address the debt ceiling impasse.

Concerns mount as debt ceiling deadline nears

President Joe Biden met with congressional leadership from both parties Tuesday to negotiate an end to the federal debt ceiling dispute. Both Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy delivered comments and took questions following the closed-session meeting. Biden called the meeting productive. The meeting was called to discuss a path beyond the current debt ceiling problems.

“America is not going to default on this debt for the first time in history. Never has, never well,” Biden said.

Reproductive justice newsletter: Edgewood seeks to ban abortion

Editor’s note: This is a copy of our monthly reproductive justice newsletter. If you want to subscribe to receive this free newsletter on the last Friday of every month, you can do so here. Hello readers, 

After an eight-hour meeting that began Tuesday evening, the town of Edgewood passed an anti-abortion ordinance in the early morning hours of Wednesday by a vote of 4-1. Edgewood Commissioner Filandro Anaya said he voted against it because of “home rule” though he didn’t explain his vote further. The move is the latest of a handful of individual towns and counties that, since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, have passed similar ordinances in New Mexico and elsewhere.

FEMA funds available to Navajo Nation after blizzard, flooding

The federal government announced on Wednesday that disaster assistance will be available to assist communities in Navajo Nation that were impacted by severe winter weather and are facing spring flooding due to snowmelt.

The severe winter weather that barraged New Mexico in January hit the Navajo Nation so badly the Nation declared an emergency on Jan. 17 from the blizzard. The winter snows melted into spring flooding which has led to another emergency on the Navajo Nation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, announced Wednesday that federal disaster assistance was made available. “We’re very thankful for the money that the federal government has provided,” Navajo Nation spokesman Donovan Quintero said.

Lujan Grisham to end state’s COVID-19 public health emergency

The state’s COVID-19 public health emergency will come to an end at the end of March, a little more than three years after the governor first issued her executive order over the deadly respiratory illness. The governor announced her renewal of the public health emergency order on Friday would be the final one, and it would expire on March 31. 

“While we’re still seeing COVID cases, our preparedness and collaborative work have helped turn a once-in-a-century public health emergency into a manageable situation,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement on Friday. “We are working diligently across state agencies to make sure New Mexicans continue to be supported as federal COVID programs wind down.” 

This comes as the federal government also plans to end its COVID-19 emergencies. President Joe Biden announced earlier this year that he would end the national emergencies for COVID-19 on May 11. 

Lujan Grisham first declared a public health emergency on March 11, 2020, the same day the state detected its first confirmed cases of the disease. 

In the coming weeks, the governor included drastic efforts to slow the spread of the disease, including shuttering restaurants, banning public gatherings and implementing capacity restrictions in places like grocery stores. The state also, for a time, mandated the use of masks in public areas.

Biden nominates Torres Small to top USDA role

Former U.S. Representative and current federal official Xochitl Torres Small might be getting a new position. President Joe Biden nominated Torres Small to be Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Torres Small is currently the Under Secretary for Rural Development in the same agency. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack praised Torres Small in a statement after the White House announced the nomination, calling her an “exemplary member of the USDA subcabinet.”

“During her leadership, Rural Development was the first federal agency to invest Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds in physical infrastructure for high-speed internet, and the first entity to make Inflation Reduction Act funds available to drive down energy costs for farmers and rural small businesses,” Vilsack said. “She has worked to foster a dedicated and diverse workforce ready to serve the American people in Rural Development offices across the country.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, signaled his support for Torres Small as well.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, center, addresses a bipartisan group of legislators, media, community organizers and law enforcement in the cabinet meeting room in the Governor’s Office January 25, 2023.

MLG named to president’s Council of Governors

President Joe Biden named Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to his Council of Governors Thursday. “I am honored to join this bipartisan group of state leaders to strengthen the relationship between the federal government and states to improve our joint responses and capabilities during national emergencies,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release. “Preparation and planning are the keys to saving lives and property in every crisis from historic wildfires and major weather events to threats against critical infrastructure, protecting our electrical grid and hardening our technological defenses against cyber attacks. Working together, as governors from both parties, we can and we will improve our preparedness and make our nation more secure. I want to thank President Biden for giving me this opportunity to serve our nation and represent the State of New Mexico.”

The Council of Governors was established in 2008 by the National Defense Authorization Act, also known as the NDAA.

Reproductive justice leader was Heinrich’s guest at the State of the Union

Sen. Martin Heinrich’s guest for President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address held Tuesday evening during a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol building was a reproductive justice leader in New Mexico. Heinrich invited Charlene Bencomo, a Chicana New Mexican and executive director of Las Cruces-based Bold Futures, to be his special guest at the State of the Union address. Heinrich said through a news release that he chose Bencomo “in part to recognize her advocacy and deep commitment in New Mexico to build communities where women, people and families can live and thrive with respect and dignity, but also to underscore the work that still lies ahead.”

“Charlene is a lifelong New Mexican and a driving force for change. She uses her work and life experiences to educate, inspire, and inform others. Her leadership has been central to reproductive rights advancements in our state and across the country.

A bill to fill service gaps in sexual assault programming passes first committee

A bill that will help fill gaps created by reduced federal funding for sexual assault services in New Mexico passed the House Health and Human Services Committee with no opposition on Wednesday. HB 133, Recruit Sexual Assault Service Providers, will, if enacted, provide $2 million from the general fund for Fiscal Year 2024 to New Mexico to recruit and retain sexual assault service providers in New Mexico. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission would receive the funding. Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill but Rep. Liz Thomson, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, presented the bill before the committee on Trujillo’s behalf. “This is a very simple bill,” Thomson said.

Abortion rights protestors rally in Washington D.C.

2022 Top Stories #1: Dobbs decision

Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See our entire countdown of 2022 top stories, to date, here

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, marking a significant shift in decades of judicial decision-making as well as creating what many called a public health emergency. The court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned nearly 50 years of precedent. The court said in its 6-3  opinion that it thought the decision should go back to the states to decide. The outcome of the decision has led to 44 states to ban or restrict abortion care in 2022, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.