During pandemic, a privately run detention center sought to find new migrants to detain

A private detention center in southern New Mexico sought to increase the numbers of detainees within its facility after the state declared a public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. Management and Training Company (MTC), which operates the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC), sent a letter to Otero County Manager Pam Heltner dated March 31. The letter stated that due to an anticipated “significant decrease,” in migrant detainees, the company would terminate its agreement—but offered a solution. NM Political Report received the letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, which obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request. The letter stated:

“MTC would be happy to explore with you the possibility of partnering with other state or federal agencies to co-locate detainees or inmates at the OCPC in order to increase the overall population at the facility and make MTC’s continued operation of the facility financially viable.”

MTC houses migrants held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

VA hospitals are rationing protective gear, emails show. Congress wants to know why.

A group of eight House lawmakers fired off a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday accusing the White House of withholding vital information from Congress related to conditions inside the Department of Veterans Affairs’ sprawling health care system.

The lawmakers said they decided to write to Pence, along with Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, because it was clear that the White House was “holding up” the release of documents detailing protocols covering the VA’s use of masks, gloves and other protective gear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As pandemic continues, abortion groups feel greater strain

With the coronavirus pandemic worsening — the state announced 40 new positive tests of COVID-19 Thursday and an additional death — access to abortion care gets increasingly complicated.

Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports reproductive health care, has allowed abortion clinics to remain open in New Mexico during the public health emergency. But abortion access has become more challenging in many areas of the country and that affects New Mexico, according to advocates.

Navajo mom feels the magnitude of the coronavirus

As COVID-19 causes crisis and panic across the nation, one Diné (Navajo) mom reflects on how the virus adds stress to an already impoverished people. Jana Pfeiffer, who lives in Albuquerque with her family, has been able to stock up on extra food during this time of crisis. Because she’s a state employee, she can also work from home while her two kids are out of school for the next three weeks. But back on the Navajo Nation, Pfeiffer’s extended family are in a much more tenuous situation. “I think I just feel the magnitude of this problem.

Pence headed to NM next week

Vice President Mike Pence will be in New Mexico next week to promote Donald Trump’s North American trade agreement. Pence’s trip to Artesia on Wednesday, Aug. 21 was announced by America First Policies, a non-profit that backs Trump. Pence’s visit will be part of a series of events the group is holding to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement to NAFTA which was signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States but has not been ratified by Congress. According to the group, the event will feature “guest speakers discussing the [USMCA], and how this new trade deal will hugely benefit the economy and American workers in the Artesia area, the state of New Mexico, and in our great nation as a whole.”

The Trump campaign has maintained they believe he can win New Mexico in 2020, despite losing to Democrat Hillary Clinton by over 8 percentage points in 2016 (Libertarian candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson, received 9.3 percent of the vote, the highest percentage by a third-party candidate since Independent Ross Perot in 1992).

‘Contraception Deserts’ likely to widen under new Trump administration policy

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — When Nikia Jackson needed to be screened for a sexually transmitted disease, she wanted a clinic that was reputable, quick and inexpensive. After searching online, Jackson, 23, ended up at the Obria Medical Clinics’ sparkling new facility in an office park in suburban Atlanta. She was unaware that the clinic does not offer condoms or other kinds of birth control beyond so-called natural family planning methods. Religious conservatives say these types of clinics are the future of women’s sexual health care in the United States.

The Interior secretary gave a closed-door speech to ALEC

On July 20, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at a closed-door meeting of conservative state legislators and lobbyists, raising questions about his stated goals of transparency in federal government. Zinke, a former Montana congressman, spoke in Denver at the annual meeting for the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry organization backed by Koch Industries and ExxonMobil and devoted to “limited government, free markets and federalism.”

ALEC, whose initiatives include a push for state control over federal lands, provides model bills for state legislatures and influences bills going through Congress. Because of the group’s funding sources and its interest in states holding public lands, conservationists see Zinke’s association with the group as problematic. Throughout his congressional confirmation process for the Department of Interior position, and in the early months of his job, Zinke has reiterated that he does not favor land transfers. “The things that Zinke has claimed he stood for, in terms of public lands, ALEC are the ones driving against that all these years,” says Aaron Weiss, media director at the Center for Western Priorities.

Even without Congress, Trump can still cut Medicaid enrollment

 

After the Senate fell short in its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration is poised to use its regulatory powers to accomplish what lawmakers could not: shrink Medicaid. President Donald Trump’s top health officials could engineer lower enrollment in the state-federal health insurance program by approving applications from several GOP-controlled states eager to control fast-rising Medicaid budgets. Indiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona and Wisconsin are seeking the administration’s permission to require adult enrollees to work, submit to drug testing and demand that some of their poorest recipients pay monthly premiums or get barred from the program. Maine plans to apply Tuesday. Other states would likely follow if the first ones get the go-ahead.

Berry to attend Trump infrastructure summit

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is headed to Washington. The mayor’s office announced Wednesday that Berry, a Republican, will meet with the Donald Trump administration to discuss an infrastructure plan. The mayor’s office said that the administration “hand-picked” the attendees of the summit. Municipal elected officials and governors will reportedly meet with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, among other members of the Trump administration. NM Political Report reached out to the office of Gov. Susana Martinez to ask if she would be attending the summit.

Martinez on controversial Trump pick: ‘He gets to choose whoever he wants’

Gov. Susana Martinez continued warming up to President-elect Donald Trump by defending his controversial pick of Steve Bannon to national media outlets Tuesday. Trump’s pick of Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, the far-right news website, as chief strategist at the White House drew rebuke from anti-discrimination groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. At the same time, the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan and former KKK leader David Duke praised Trump’s pick of Bannon. Bannon is under fire for his alleged anti-semitic comments as well as running Breitbart while the website published stories with headlines like, “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage,”  “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews.” While Democrats, including those in New Mexico’s congressional delegation, are criticizing Trump for the pick, most congressional Republicans haven’t commented one way or another on Bannon.