DOH warns of fake mask ‘exemption’ cards

The New Mexico Department of Health says that “counterfeit” face covering exemption cards in Santa Fe County are not distributed by the state of New Mexico or the U.S. government as claimed on the cards. 

The state mandates face coverings for those in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The department warns that those who create or use these cards could face a fourth degree felony. “People lying about a medical condition to get out of wearing a facemask literally puts their lives and that of those around them at risk,” DOH Secretary Kathy Kunkel said. “New Mexicans deserve to feel safe out in public, and fraudulent messaging like this is both illegal and potentially dangerous to people’s health.”

The cards say they are issued by the DOH and the U.S. Department of Justice, according to a release sent on Wednesday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and health officials have repeatedly said that wearing face masks is one of the key ways New Mexicans can slow the spread of COVID-19 and help New Mexico reopen more sectors of its economy. 

New Mexico is one of 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, with some form of face covering mandate in public. 

Texas requires masks in public in counties with more than 20 cases; nearly all counties that border New Mexico have at least 20 cases.

Guv: Racism is ‘public health emergency,’ will appoint racial justice czar and council

On Thursday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said racism is a “public health emergency” and that she would make examining government policies with institutionalized racism in mind “the center of my administration.”

She announced the formation of the Council for Racial Justice, which will be comprised of several African American community leaders, and she will appoint a racial justice czar. The council will include state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democrat from Albuquerque, NM Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs Director Alexandria Taylor and the Reverend Donna Maria Davis of the Grant Chapel AME Church, along with others. Lujan Grisham said during the live press conference that the nation has to “own what slavery did.”

“Until we own that sin…that disgrace, we don’t have the opportunity to move forward,” Lujan Grishan said. The press conference came after recent events that have gripped the nation. Video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on an African American man, George Floyd, for nearly nine minutes, killing him.

Leaked immigration court official’s directive could violate rules that protect families from deportation

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, at revealnews.org/podcast. A high-ranking immigration court official has issued a requirement to judges in New York City that deportation cases involving families “MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 365 DAYS,” according to documents obtained by Reveal. The order may violate due process, as well as long-standing rules that protect families from deportation before their cases have been adjudicated fully. 

The discovery of Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Daniel Daugherty’s email to judges illustrates the inner workings of one of the nation’s busiest immigration courts, days after the Department of Justice filed a petition to disband the immigration judges union. 

The department and union have been battling over judges’ independence. Immigration court cases involving parents and children – such as those separated at the border or in the recent Mississippi workplace raids – can take several years to adjudicate.

Migrants get a second chance at asylum. But it’s still “an uphill battle.”

Ruby Powers didn’t rush to celebrate when her client, a Honduran mother who has been separated from her 15-year-old son and detained for four months, passed her second “credible fear” interview to restart the asylum process. Although the president and the American Civil Liberties Union have come to an agreement giving migrant families separated at the border this summer a second chance to make their case for staying in the country, immigration lawyers say the Trump administration is still working overtime to upend the nation’s asylum process. And while a few hundred people may get a second chance at asylum, there are likely tens of thousands of asylum-seekers who will be subject to a tightened asylum process. “It’s infinitely harder on all levels,” Powers said. “With the chipping away of the asylum law, it’s an uphill battle to try to get an approval.”
The primary source of their unease?

City of Albuquerque agrees to settlement in police shooting suit

The City of Albuquerque agreed to a still-undisclosed settlement in a four-year-old lawsuit filed by the minor children of a man who was shot and killed by police. The agreement came Friday, just two days before a jury trial for the lawsuit was set to start. Three children of Mickey Owings filed a lawsuit against the city in 2014 after the U.S. Department of Justice included Owings’ death in its scathing report of the Albuquerque Police Department and its use of excessive force. A spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller confirmed the city and the children’s attorneys agreed to settle, but she declined to provide details before a state district court judge approves the agreement. “The parties reached an agreement on the Owings case, which is one of the last few remaining cases still pending from the previous administration listed in the DOJ report,” the mayor’s spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said.

Federal government tells border prosecutors to adopt “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors on the southwest border to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy against anyone who enters or attempts to enter the country illegally, a mandate he said “supersedes” any prior directives. “To those who wish to challenge the Trump Administration’s commitment to public safety, national security, and the rule of law, I warn you: illegally entering this country will not be rewarded, but will instead be met with the full prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “To the Department’s prosecutors, I urge you: promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens.”

The directive instructs all federal prosecutors on the southwest border to prosecute all Department of Homeland Security referrals for alleged violations of federal immigration illegal-entry laws. In a one-page memo sent to federal prosecutors on the southwest border, Sessions said the goal wasn’t merely developing more immigration cases, but instead an end to the “illegality in [the] immigration system.” He added that if the new policy requires more resources, the offices should identify and request those to the Department of Justice. The mandate comes the same week President Donald Trump has assailed Democrats for supporting what he said are “catch and release” policies where individuals apprehended by the Border Patrol are released while they await a court date.

Questions remain on federal anti-sex trafficking legislation as Senate vote nears

Correction: In referencing a Ms. article from 2011, this story originally said that Chris Garcia was one of the operators of an allegedly illegal website, Southwest Companions. Garcia was charged by police of being an operator of the site, which they alleged was a house of prostitution, but a state district court judge threw out all the charges. The reference has been removed. It’s rare lately for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to find consensus, though some phrases like “infrastructure” and “small businesses” still inspire legislators to declare their willingness to work together. “Sex trafficking” is another one of those.

The Trump appointee behind the move to add a citizenship question to the census

In December, the Department of Justice requested that the Census Bureau add a question to the 2020 survey that would ask respondents to reveal whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Since ProPublica first reported the DOJ’s letter, civil rights groups and congressional Democrats have announced their opposition, arguing that in the midst of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, the question will lead many people to opt out of the census, resulting in an inaccurate population count. A lot is at stake. The once-a-decade population count determines how House seats are distributed and helps determine where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent. But one question regarding the December letter remained unclear.

Dems in delegation slam Nunes memo release as ‘cowardly,’ ‘partisan’

Democrats in the New Mexico congressional delegation slammed the release of a memo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans, saying the document was partisan and inaccurate. The FBI urged Congress to not release the memo before President Donald Trump allowed its release. The memo itself likely will not be a smoking gun to end the investigation into the Trump presidential campaign, as some supporters had hoped. Indeed, it confirmed that the FBI began investigating Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos well before the U.S. government saw the Steele Dossier. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee crafted their own memo, which they wish to release.

DOJ threatens (again) to withhold funds from Bernalillo County over immigration info sharing

The U.S. Department of Justice is again threatening to withhold some crimefighting funds from Bernalillo County over what the Trump administration has called “sanctuary” policies. The DOJ contacted Bernalillo County and 22 other jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, saying they violated the law that promotes sharing immigration enforcement information with the federal government. DOJ says the statute requires cooperation as a condition for receiving grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Wednesday, DOJ threatened to subpoena officials who do not comply with their documents request. The threat is the latest in the fight between the federal government and local jurisdictions they deem as “sanctuary.” There is no formal definition of a so-called “sanctuary” city or county, though the Trump administration generally uses it to refer to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal requests to aid enforcement of immigration law.