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.
Bernalillo County announced Monday that an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19. The county said MDC learned of the positive test on Sunday and the patient is now isolated and receiving treatment from the detention center’s medical team. Four MDC staff are now self-isolating after coming into contact with the inmate. The detention center says inmates are being monitored, but none are currently exhibiting symptoms.
According to the release, the inmate was booked on Thursday, March 26 and did not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19, which are a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The jail learned two days after the inmate arrived that the inmate’s mother was hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19; the inmate had been caring for his mother.
Next month, the New Mexico Legislature is expected to consider legalizing recreational use cannabis. But many medical cannabis patients and patient advocates believe the state should solve problems with the state’s Medical Cannabis Program first.
Many in the medical cannabis community have publicly expressed concerns about producer plant limits, social inequalities within the program and testing standards. But beyond those issues is the legal question of whether or not those who are incarcerated should be allowed to use medical cannabis with a medical professional’s recommendation.
This year, New Mexico passed a sweeping bill that added protections for patients from getting fired or losing custody of their children to the state just for being a medical cannabis card holder. The new law also allows those in pretrial custody and those on probation or parole to use medical cannabis. Prior to the law passing, it was often left up to judges or probation and parole officers to make that decision.
The Bernalillo County Commission reiterated its commitment to being an immigrant-friendly community. On Tuesday night, commissioners voted 4-1 against a provision that would have rolled back that status. County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican who is running for Albuquerque mayor, introduced a proposal to bring the county in alignment with the federal government’s current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally. “There is nothing in this resolution that directs or even implies that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department should be enforcing federal immigration law,” Johnson said. “Everything in this resolution puts the burden on the Department of Homeland Security and on Immigration and Customs. It allows access to detainees, identified by the DHS, and it allows notification when those identified detainees will be released 48 hours prior and then it would allow, in the very specific condition, for us to hold someone for 48 hours if the Department of Homeland Security agrees to indemnify the county against liability.”
Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.
Every morning before he leaves to go to work, Yalil scans the street outside his home to see if any unusual cars are parked outside. “If it’s something, we do have to plan not to go to work and stay the whole day home,” he said. Yalil’s little brothers, both still in school and born in the United States, are too young to understand why their family needs to be so cautious. But they’re instructed every day to never answer the door, “not even to the missionaries, the people who are talking about God,” Yalil said. “We just let them know they cannot open the door because my dad and my mom could be detained and we might not get to see them again,” he said.
Albuquerque police Detective Herman Martinez had an anonymous tip: a man and woman had warrants out for their arrests, they had been selling large amounts of heroin in the city, and the man had a gun. So shortly after noon on June 28, Martinez and seven other plainclothes officers from the APD Narcotics and Vice units followed Camille Gabaldon, 38, and 37-year-old Greg Chaparro, in unmarked police cars as the pair drove through the city in a maroon sedan. This story first appeared in New Mexico In Depth. It is reprinted with permission. Within an hour, the officers were in another fraught drug investigation — the third such incident involving the Narcotics Unit and street-level users during the last several weeks. The June 28 encounter provides another lens through which to view a New Mexico version of the tension between law enforcement and marginalized communities that is roiling the nation.
As Bernalillo County Commission District 2 candidate Adrián Pedroza recently put it, the issue of Santolina became “front and center” when lawyers and developers behind the controversial planned community inserted themselves into the race by creating a political action committee. Pedroza, one of three candidates running to fill the term-limited Art De La Cruz’s seat, is vocally opposed to the development. Of the more than 1,000 people in the district that Pedroza says he’s talked to since beginning his campaign last year, he contends only one of them voiced support for Santolina. “They can’t imagine how the county would be supporting and thinking about putting public resources towards a new city with 40,000 homes in an area that doesn’t exist,” Pedroza, a development director at the South Valley-based Partnership for Community Action, said. “When people try to get sold on, ‘This is jobs for the district,’ they say, ‘Well, we want jobs in our existing communities, not jobs in a community that doesn’t exist.’”
Robert Chavez, one of Pedroza’s opponents in the upcoming Democratic primary, argues this type of outspokenness by Pedroza might bar him from actually voting on Santolina issues as a commissioner.
State lawmakers are debating whether to ask voters to change the Constitution and give judges more flexibility in the state’s longstanding cash bail system. Two proposals vie for their attention and if either wins the Legislature’s approval, it would go before voters in November. One would allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed dangerous but let those who are not go free before trial if financial hardship is all that’s keeping them behind bars. The other addresses dangerous defendants but not individuals too poor to afford bail. Currently, the New Mexico Constitution allows nearly all criminal defendants the chance for freedom before trial, so long as they can afford it.