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.

Two transmission line projects in NM are listed in ‘ready to go’ report

A report released Tuesday by Americans for a Clean Energy Grid includes two New Mexico transmission projects that it says could move from advanced planning to construction if certain policies are changed. The report concludes that federal policy reform is needed in three areas: permitting, financing and planning. There are 22 projects listed in the “Transmission Projects Ready to Go” report as “shovel ready.”

This includes the more-than 500-mile long SunZia line and the 240-mile long Southline. Both projects are located in southern New Mexico and Arizona. A fact sheet released by President Joe Biden’s administration today states that new financing opportunities through the U.S. Department of Energy as well as the ability to use right of ways from the U.S. Department of Transportation could help move the 22 projects identified in the report forward.

Tax bill that advocates say will bring greater equity signed into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill on Tuesday that child welfare advocates have said will be a game changer in New Mexico. HB 291 expands tax credits for families. Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, was the lead sponsor of the bill. The new law makes the tax code more equitable than it was before, New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director James Jimenez previously told NM Political Report. Related: State and federal child tax credits improve equity for children of color in the state

Jimenez said New Mexico’s tax policies are “regressive,” which means that those who make the least pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes.

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.

State and federal child tax credits improve equity for children of color in the state

Tax credits that recently passed the New Mexico Legislature and the U.S. Congress will improve child poverty and equity issues, according to child welfare advocates. The New Mexico Legislature passed HB 291, a bill that will raise revenue by about $5 million annually, said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. The bill, whose lead sponsor was Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, improves the state’s Working Family Tax Credit and the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate, he said. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office still has to sign the bill. Her office is reviewing the measures the Legislature passed, spokesperson Nora Meyers Sackett told NM Political Report.

Democrats eye Medicare negotiations to lower drug prices

Democrats, newly in control of Congress and the White House, are united behind an idea that Republican lawmakers and major drugmakers fiercely oppose: empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate the prices of brand-name drugs covered by Medicare. This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free. But they do not have enough votes without Republican support in the Senate for the legislation they hope will lower the price consumers pay for prescription drugs. That raises the possibility that Democrats will use a legislative tactic called reconciliation, as they did to pass President Joe Biden’s covid relief package, or even eliminate the Senate filibuster to keep their promise to voters.

Lujan Grisham talks COVID-19 financial aid during meeting with Biden

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham joined a handful of governors and mayors in a meeting to discuss COVID-19 relief with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House. Biden praised the mayors and governors and said “these are the folks that are on the ground dealing with it every single, solitary day.”

Lujan Grisham responded to the meeting in a statement. “I was humbled to represent New Mexicans in the Oval Office this afternoon and to advocate for the direct aid our businesses, front-line workers, local governments and tribal governments desperately need. President Biden made it very clear to me directly: His government wants New Mexico to succeed in our struggle against COVID-19 and he and his administration are fighting in Congress to get New Mexicans every resource we need as part of our ongoing economic recovery after this year of crisis.”

The president emphasized the importance of getting vaccines out to Americans. “But equally consequential is that we need to help the states economically in terms of unemployment to being able to ensure they’re able to get back to schools, what role the federal government should play in helping getting that done,” Biden said.

Respect New Mexico Women: ‘We won’t be bullied’

A virtual reproductive-justice rally to underscore the importance of repealing the 1969 abortion ban in the state took place Monday. Because of the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Respect New Mexico Women, a coalition of organizations dedicated to reproductive justice, held the rally virtually to ensure safety during the pandemic. An assortment of advocates, experts, supporters and lawmakers spoke from their individual locations to talk about why repealing the 1969 ban that would outlaw abortion in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court guts or overturns Roe v. Wade is crucial to healthcare. Related: New Mexico’s 1969 abortion law was one in a long line of laws restricting access

There were calls to action and two Albuquerque Democratic legislators, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state state Rep. Georgene Louis, of the Acoma Pueblo, spoke about why they are sponsoring the Senate and House bills. Lopez said “every pregnancy is unique and complex.”’

“Making a decision not to continue a pregnancy is very difficult and very personal,” she said.

Biden becomes 46th President of the United States, pledges to seek unity

At 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, former Vice President Joe Biden officially became President of the United States. Minutes earlier, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to Biden. It was a more subdued and smaller inauguration ceremony than those of years past, because of COVID-19 protocols. And law enforcement and members of the National Guard surrounded the inauguration over possible threats from the far-right, which did not materialize. It’s under this banner, along with facing an increasingly bleak pandemic, economic problems and a myriad of other challenges, that Biden will take the reins of the country.

Biden proposes sweeping immigration legislation on first day

The Joe Biden administration is expected to propose legislation that could forge a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, including undocumented residents in New Mexico. President Biden released a fact sheet on his first day of office detailing an immigration bill that the nonprofit organization New Mexico Dream Team calls “one of the boldest and most progressive immigration bills in our history.”

Felipe Rodriguez, co-director of New Mexico Dream Team, told NM Political Report that there are around 7,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients in the state and that is “just a fraction of the immigrant population” in New Mexico. Biden’s proposal would provide an eight-year pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently reside in the U.S. It would also expedite a 3-year pathway to citizenship to undocumented youth, farm workers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders who migrated from specifically designated countries involved in armed conflict or other extraordinary conditions. Another important feature of Biden’s proposed legislation is what it doesn’t include, Rodriguez said. “It’s very common for immigration bills to contain money for enforcement and border militarization,” Rodriguez said.