Black man says he can prove feds racially profiled him, wants charges dropped

Yusef Casanova believes he has enough evidence to prove federal law enforcement targeted him because he’s black. Casanova, whose case NMID highlighted in a May 2017 investigation, is asking a federal judge to drop federal drug and gun charges from a controversial monthslong 2016 sting operation in Albuquerque and give him his freedom back. The motion, filed last month in federal court, contends there is evidence that shows agents and informants of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) racially profiled Casanova and other African Americans in the operation. Casanova sold an ounce of meth and a gun to an undercover ATF agent in June 2016; he was arrested weeks later and has been locked up pending trial ever since. His white supplier — who was present when Casanova brokered the drug sale — was never arrested.

ABQ Democracy Dollars proposal would increase mayoral campaign cash

A decade ago, it seemed Albuquerque’s new public financing program had proven itself. All three mayoral candidates in 2009 used public money to run their campaigns, keeping expenditures under $400,000 each, well below the almost $1.2 million the incumbent mayor had spent in 2005 to get re-elected. Public financing freed candidates to talk to voters rather than spend all their time fundraising, supporters said, while making it possible for them to compete against candidates raising money from big donors. They also hoped reducing the amount of money spent might inspire more confidence in the political process. Then a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Arizona case invalidated a provision in Albuquerque’s law that provided additional funds when expenditures by private competitors exceeded the initial city disbursements to publicly funded candidates.

Creative thinking brings child care center to Jal

A visitor heading down NM-128 to Jal would be forgiven for believing there were more people driving pickups and equipment trucks on the congested state highway than living in the small oil patch town of just over 2,100 people. Jal is an old ranching community — JAL was a brand used for the John A. Lynch herd, brought to the area by settlers in the 1800s — but today, oil is its economic engine. And that engine is humming. New Mexico’s most recent oil and gas boom has filled Heaven in a Cup, a retro burgers-and-shake shack off Main Street, with hungry oil field workers. Encampments of RVs and campers have sprung up around town and the economic resurgence has helped refuel the tiny town that sits just across the border from Texas.

Historic court victory will influence election, 2019 legislative session

A jovial crowd shaded by large trees and within sight of an Albuquerque public school gathered Monday to celebrate a court ruling that many were hailing as vindication of what they had been saying for years. On Friday, State District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled New Mexico guilty of shirking its constitutional duty  to adequately educate at-risk students. The ruling, which represented a sound defeat for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her Public Education Department, is not the last word. The agency said late Monday it will appeal. “Unfortunately, the judge missed the boat with this ruling,” Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said, adding that the state has invested in programs that “have been proven to improve student success.” 

But the possibility of an appeal earlier in the day wasn’t about to puncture Monday’s celebratory mood.

Immigrants share harrowing tales from detention

Carlos Medrano of Mexico had to wait six days before guards let him call his family from the Otero County correctional facility where he spent two and a half months, incarcerated by a private prison company that holds undocumented immigrants for the federal government. “They didn’t respect us,” Medrano told New Mexico state lawmakers through a translator in Santa Fe on Monday. Roberto Gonzalez of Anthony, New Mexico, talked about the sadness he felt at not seeing his family for three months. Gonzalez was arrested outside a courthouse where he had gone to conduct business that “he had a right to conduct” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, he said through a translator. Like Medrano, Gonzalez found himself locked up in one of two facilities in New Mexico that house undocumented immigrants for ICE.

While migrant families seek shelter from violence, Trump administration narrows path to asylum

For nearly all of its history, the United States has welcomed the world’s most vulnerable: men, women and children fleeing violence, persecution and death in their home countries. But under President Donald Trump, immigration lawyers and historians say, the legal path to safety in this country is being systematically narrowed, a process that started long before family separations drew international attention to the nation’s southern border. As federal officials clamp down on asylum, citing a need to root out abuse — and as Trump himself complains of drawn-out court proceedings that grant legal rights to migrants — concerns are mounting that the administration is undermining the country’s long-standing commitment to sheltering the helpless. “While migrant families seek shelter from violence, Trump administration narrows path to asylum” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.Immigration officials have set up de facto blockades at government-sanctioned ports of entry, where asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country the “right” way have been delayed or turned away. Women seeking refuge from domestic abuse are reportedly being denied asylum because the U.S. attorney general decided they rarely qualify for safe harbor.

NM may become among first states to seek oversight on immigration detention centers

After spending five months locked up inside two different Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisons in New Mexico, Manuel Gonzalez will soon be among the first ICE detainees in the country to have state legislators formally learn about his experience. On July 16, members of the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice committee will have the chance to hear from former detainees like Gonzalez, as well as immigrant communities and their advocates. The committee hearing at the Roundhouse, which will include an hour for public comment,  is intended to educate lawmakers, some of whom hope to start a conversation about whether to exert more state oversight on private prisons in New Mexico that incarcerate immigrants. A 51-year-old father of six, Gonzalez has lived in the United States for 38 years — decades he’s spent working in New Mexico’s oil and construction industries. As for what compelled plainclothes ICE agents to show up at his home in Roswell and arrest him in June 2017, Gonzalez says he still has no idea.

Albuquerque aviation company mum on federal contracts related to immigration

A New Mexico aviation company owned by a prominent Republican businessman has active contracts with the federal agency charged with housing migrant children once they cross the border. Albuquerque-based CSI Aviation Inc., owned by Allen Weh, a former GOP candidate for New Mexico governor and U.S. Senate, has won multiple contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for transportation and relocation services that occurred in 2017 and 2018, a review of federal government databases shows. In a June 23 news release HHS said when families are apprehended at the border they’re processed first by the U.S. Border Patrol, which then separates the children, placing them in the custody of the department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. The parents are sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for processing. There were 2,053 “separated minors” in HHS facilities on June 20, which is 17 percent of minors under the care of HHS, the agency said.

As immigration debate rages, private prison operators spread cash to NM pols

Two of the nation’s largest private prison companies have given nearly $33,000 to New Mexico’s congressional representatives and state lawmakers over the past year and a half, a review of campaign finance records by New Mexico In Depth shows. The two operators — the GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic, which have maintained a major presence in New Mexico for decades — have come in for criticism over the years from immigration attorneys and advocates for warehousing immigrants under multiple presidential administrations. The focus has sharpened as the nation debates the Trump administration’s stepped-up immigration enforcement policies at the border. Across the country the two private prison operators have spent considerable money to influence government policy and have made sizable profits from detaining immigrants in their facilities, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide.