Then and Now: Years after childhood immigration, she dreams of stability

“My name is Cinthia Yaneli Muñoz Fierro,” the young woman announces, introducing herself in the Mexican custom with all her given and family names. “I was supposed to be born, as far as my parents’ plan, in El Paso,” she says. “That would have given me dual citizenship. But because my mom didn’t make it across in time, I was born in Juárez, Chihuahua. And right now, I am technically just an illegal immigrant; I don’t have U.S. citizenship whatsoever.”

Cinthia doesn’t remember crossing la frontera at age 3, but that twist of fate thrust her into a legal bind from which she hasn’t yet managed to extricate herself.

Pre-K problems: Federal funds lost to competition as needy children go unserved

ANTHONY — A tall chain-link fence splits the preschool campus behind Anthony Elementary in southern New Mexico: federally funded classrooms on one side, state-funded classrooms on the other. The fence serves as a literal and symbolic divide segregating two sets of classrooms outfitted with the same child-size tables, chairs and toys; two sets of highly trained teachers; two separate playgrounds — and a bitter competition for 4-year-old children. As New Mexico has expanded early education for toddlers over the past decade, the state has created a system that bars providers from mixing state and federal funds in the same classroom. It’s a policy – not a law – that effectively separates kids into rival programs, often divided by income. Head Start serves the lowest income families in New Mexico; the state programs serve families from a range of income levels.

Kids at risk: After early trauma, many N.M. children face devastating consequences, experts warn

On her third day alone in the house, 7-year-old Linda Fritts slept in her safe place in the closet. She arranged the shelves and fashioned a nest for herself atop a chest of drawers. “I would take stuffed animals in there and my books in there,” she says now. She read by flashlight, Nancy Drew or The Boxcar Children, the series about four inexplicably happy orphans who live by themselves in an abandoned freight car. “I was jealous,” Linda says.

30 years after warnings about kids’ well-being, not much has changed

Thirty years ago, a nonprofit report on the well-being of New Mexico’s children painted a disturbingly bleak portrait of the lives of our youngest residents. The Coalition for Children’s “Kids in Crisis: New Mexico’s Other Bomb,” released in 1987, was a compendium of doom: Twenty percent of young children in New Mexico lived in poverty; fully half of Native American children did so. More than 40 percent of students in third, fifth and eighth grades scored below average on standardized tests. Twenty-five percent dropped out of high school without graduating. New Mexico had the seventh-highest teen birth rate in the nation and the highest rate of infant mortality.

2018 legislative session: A look at critical issues before state lawmakers



New Mexico’s 2018 legislative session begins Tuesday. For the 4th year running we’ve created a special edition devoted to key issues legislators are sure to in one way or the other. The edition runs today in nine newspapers around the state, and we’ve published it online as well. See it in magazine form above, or read each article in print online. ———————————————————————————

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Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski

State, advocacy groups make their final cases in PED lawsuit

Students in New Mexico are nowhere near prepared to go to college, join the workforce or engage in our democracy, according to closing arguments filed this week by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF, in a lawsuit against the state. The groups, representing families and school districts,  say the state Public Education Department isn’t providing the resources needed to properly educate its students, in violation of the state Constitution. “The problem is that for years the state has starved our public schools and denied our children the educational supports and programs and services they need so that they can learn and thrive,” said Gail Evans, legal director for the Center, who said she expects a decision from District Court Judge Sarah Singleton by the spring. Lawyers for the state PED agree that New Mexico schools need to improve and concede the job of the schools is to make students college and career ready. But that’s about all they agree on.

NMID’s best 2017 stories: Criminal Justice, Child Welfare, Good Government

New Mexico in Depth highlighted the work of our fellows earlier this week, but there was a lot more going on in 2017. Here are just a few highlights. Criminal Justice:

Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’. After a 2016 drug sting, agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced they had arrested over 100 of the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders in ABQ. Our story about one of those defendants, Yusef Casanova, explored that claim and found the sting captured a disproportionate number of black people and the ‘worst of the worst’ label is problematic.

Some of NMID Fellows’ Best 2017 Work

When New Mexico In Depth created a fellowship for journalism students of color at University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, we had high hopes for impactful, community-based stories. We haven’t been disappointed. Here are just a few of the stories created by Melorie Begay, Xchelzin Peña, and Robert Salas in 2017. Churches emerge as important refuge for immigrants. Xchelzin Peña explored the reasons behind refuge offered by Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces to immigrants facing deportation, with the most recent case being that of Martha Lorena Rivera.

Las Cruces City Council affirms immigrant friendly policies

Las Cruces city councilors unanimously voted Monday to affirm the city’s policy prohibiting police from questioning people about their immigration status unless doing so is necessary in a criminal investigation. A resolution, presented by Police Chief Jaime Montoya and City Attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown, affirmed the city’s current Human Rights ordinance as well as several existing policies of the police department which prohibit law enforcement officers from asking people to show proof of citizenship when responding to a domestic dispute, a traffic violation or other types of interactions with the public. Before voting for the resolution, city councilors focused their questions on policing and enforcement of federal immigration law. “We enforce criminal law, we do not enforce administrative law, which is immigration law,” Montoya explained to Councilor Gabriel Vasquez. Councilor Yvonne Flores questioned Montoya about procedures during routine traffic stops, particularly related to warrants for deportation violations, which she noted are federal felonies.