FRI: Governor demands changes to make horse racing drug


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Aug 11, 2023

FRI: Governor demands changes to make horse racing drug

New Mexico governor demands changes to make horse racing drug-free - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press New Mexico's governor is demanding that horse racing regulators make immediate changes to

New Mexico governor demands changes to make horse racing drug-free - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico's governor is demanding that horse racing regulators make immediate changes to address the use of performance enhancing drugs at the state's tracks and that they consult with Kentucky, California and New York on best practices to ensure drug-free racing.

In a letter sent Thursday to the New Mexico Racing Commission, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pointed to the recent deaths of seven horses at Ruidoso Downs. The track will host the All American Futurity — the richest quarter horse race — over the Labor Day weekend.

"While subsequent measures were adopted to ensure the upcoming races at Ruidoso Downs will be more closely monitored, it is simply too little too late," the governor wrote, suggesting that the state's long history of horse racing has been "utterly and irreparably tarnished by the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs."

Horse deaths have continued at tracks across the country as implementation of the federal government's antidoping and medication control program has stumbled amid legal challenges and repeated delays. The rules were meant to replace a patchwork of regulations that vary across states and tracks.

Most recently, the trainer of racehorse champion Maximum Security was sentenced by a federal judge in New York to four years in prison for his role in an international scheme to drug horses to make them race faster. Jason Servis was among more than 30 defendants charged following a multiyear federal probe of the abuse of racehorses through the use of performance enhancing drugs.

New Mexico's horse racing industry was rocked by doping allegations uncovered by a New York Times investigation in 2012. Expanded testing and other regulations followed, but the industry has struggled to return to its golden years as competition from online wagering grows and rising costs have been prohibitive for some owners and breeders.

The Racing Commission had started to implement changes before getting the governor's list of demands. Ismael Trejo, its executive director, said testing machines already were running around the clock and a special meeting was scheduled for Monday to address the governor's concerns.

Regulators were checking blood cell counts and running tests on the vital organs of qualifiers for the upcoming races at Ruidoso, and the commission contracted with outside veterinarians to do pre-race inspections.

Trejo said all but one of the seven horses that died during the recent All American trials was examined pre-race. He acknowledged that previously, with only one contract veterinarian on staff, most horses that ended up dying or were euthanized were not examined before racing.

"This is a performance measure for our agency, as best practice is to pre-race examine 100% of all horses," he told The Associated Press in an email.

Lujan Grisham's letter said 642 race horses were euthanized in New Mexico between 2014 and 2022, the sixth highest number in the country. The commission should mandate that all tracks follow the new standards being used at Ruidoso Downs, she said.

She also said all horses should have pre-race evaluations, complete with blood draws and continuous monitoring while they are in their stalls and during training.

NM’s Black Feather Fire continues to smolder - KUNM News

The Black Feather Fire south of Gallina in the Santa Fe National Forest continues to burn. It’s now scorched just under 2,200 acres and is 28% contained as of mid-day Friday.

The incident management team said in an update that it’s been able to make “great progress” in securing the fire’s edge. Crews were able to locate and extinguish hotspots identified by a drone.

Still, they warned the fire will continue to smolder due to fuels like heavy dead and downed logs and duff layers, and — for that reason — smoke may continue to be visible.

The team said suppression efforts will continue, especially along the fire’s eastern edge. Crews are monitoring weather and fire behavior, according to the update, while focusing on the safety of the firefighters.

Several communities in the area remain in a “Ready” evacuation status.

Police make 5th arrest in a drive-by shooting that killed a 5-year-old Albuquerque girl - Associated Press

Police on Friday announced the arrest of a young woman in the case of a drive-by shooting that killed a sleeping 5-year-old girl.

Albuquerque police say the 19-year-old admitted during questioning that she was in one of two suspect cars, but denied firing any weapon.

She is the fifth arrest made in the case. The woman's 17-year-old boyfriend was also arrested Thursday without incident. His 15-year-old brother and two other teenagers, ages 15 and 16, were already in custody.

All five are being held on suspicion of murder and other charges. The Associated Press is not naming them because they are juveniles.

Galilea Samaniego was sleeping with her two sisters in a mobile home when police said the teens entered their community in two stolen vehicles just before 6 a.m. on Aug. 13.

Another teenage boy living in the trailer home was their target, investigators said — he had a feud since middle school with one of the suspects and the dispute had escalated.

Police said several gunshots were fired from at least one of the vehicles toward the trailer. The girl was struck in the head and later died at a hospital.

Cecily Barker, a deputy chief for the police department's investigative bureau, said police were able to "tie cases to several incidents that involve the same juveniles."

After Roe v. Wade, the fight over abortion access moves to New Mexico - By Jenna Ebbers And Cassidey Kavathas, News21

The sanctuary in Grace Covenant Reformed Church was packed.

People stood shoulder to shoulder wherever they could — near the stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible, behind the neatly lined rows of chairs that serve as pews, against a wall covered in crosses made from painted wood, wire, glass and ceramic red chiles.

Bibles and hymnals rested under every seat, but they weren't used that Monday night last September. There was no sermon, because this wasn't a church service.

Residents of Clovis, a town of some 40,000 people a mere 20-minute drive to the Texas state line, crammed into this little brick building that night to discuss a plan of action to ban abortion.

Just three months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that had legalized abortion in the U.S. for almost 50 years.

As trigger laws banning the procedure began going into effect across the nation — in places including neighboring Texas — abortion providers took up residence in New Mexico, which has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the U.S.

"As the laws in this country change before our very eyes," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on the day Roe was reversed, "I will continue to fight for the right to a safe, legal abortion in New Mexico and stand as a brick wall against those who seek to punish women and their doctors just because they seek the care they need and deserve."

In the year since Dobbs, New Mexico has been a brick wall and a safe haven — for those who provide abortions and those who desire or need them.

But it's also become something else: a new battleground in the fight over access to abortion in this country, with smaller towns and bigger cities — and American versus American — warring against one another.

"We gained a lot of ground with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, but now it's at the state level," said Logan Brown, a science teacher from Portales, New Mexico, who helped organize the September church gathering. He's a self-proclaimed abortion abolitionist, intent on outlawing abortion at all stages, for any reason.

"Now," Brown said, "instead of one battlefield, it's 50 battlefields."


This report is part of " America After Roe," an examination of the impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade on health care, culture, policy and people, produced by Carnegie-Knight News21. For more stories, visit



'This is about your freedom'

The Rev. Erika Ferguson doesn't scare easily.

After spending 30 years working in reproductive justice, she isn't afraid of protesters outside of abortion clinics. The Dallas pastor and fierce advocate for abortion rights has become accustomed to the deafening screams from opposing voices and learned to block it all out.

Ferguson doesn't fear the red and blue police lights and sirens that could await her arrival on the tarmac each time she returns to Texas from a trip to New Mexico. Or the police with their handcuffs ready to be wrapped around her wrists. Ridicule, opposition and the possibility of arrest — or worse — are all risks Ferguson regularly dances with.

"I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid at all," she said in an interview with News21. "There's no great movement without risk and sacrifice."

Ferguson has helped over 250 women receive legal abortions in New Mexico through a network that transports mostly women of color from abortion-restricted Texas every week.

Her work started in 2021 after Texas passed Senate Bill 8, which banned abortion at around six weeks — before many know they are pregnant.

"My prime directive as a person of faith is to care for those that need care, is to accompany those that have no one to support them," she said. "What else is a minister supposed to be doing except offering care, support and comfort to whoever for whatever?"

The women she works with aren't the only ones seeking care in New Mexico.

From July 2022 through April 2023, New Mexico's five Planned Parenthood clinics recorded 2,749 appointments — a 97% increase from the 10-month period before the Texas ban was in place.

Post-Roe, 57% of Planned Parenthood patients in New Mexico are from Texas, according to the agency, with others coming from Oklahoma, Arizona and elsewhere.

"This was not by accident," Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains said in an emailed statement. "Home-grown reproductive justice groups have been organizing on the ground for decades to ensure New Mexico maintains the right to self-determination."

Despite those efforts, the sudden and massive increase in abortion-seekers was not something New Mexico was necessarily prepared for, said Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the OB-GYN department at the University of New Mexico.

When the need for abortion care first began increasing, clinics adjusted scheduling and staffing, expanded telehealth capabilities, and extended hours, Espey said. This was helpful in accommodating not only clinical care but mental health concerns and logistical issues like helping patients with transportation, child care and funding.

"I think we can handle the numbers that are coming in, but we know that we're seeing the tip of the iceberg," Espey said. "We know that we're only seeing the patients who have the means or who have the health literacy, who have connections, internet skills and all of the things that are required to come sometimes 14 hours."

Soon after the passage of SB 8, Ferguson took her first trip to New Mexico with 25 women. She got her inspiration from a late-night text message she received from a 16 year old.

"How am I going to get out of the state to get an abortion? I can't even figure out how to get a bus across town," the teen wrote.

Ferguson replied with five words: "Don't worry. I'll help you."

"I really didn't know what I was saying, but I knew that I was going to help her, just like people helped me," said Ferguson, who had two abortions when she was 16 and 18 and remembers being treated with dignity and respect.

She has continued her work, only stopping briefly after the overturn of Roe to ensure the safety of her patients and herself. She declined to allow News21 to accompany the group on a trip to New Mexico and keeps the identities of those she assists private.

SB 8 allows private citizens to bring civil actions against those who help people get abortions in Texas, but advocates who provide funding or assistance to send people out of state have feared the law could be used against them, too.

For that reason, Ferguson takes extra precautions. In New Mexico, before each group of patients boards the return flight home, she says her goodbyes and warns them to do nothing if they see law enforcement or signs of trouble back in Texas.

"'No matter what you see, I want you to keep walking,'" she tells them, '"because this is about your freedom.'"

Once they exit the plane, Ferguson never sees the women again. But they leave with lifelong community, dignity and hope, she said.

"This is a story of affirmation, of possibility. This is a story that has a happy ending."

It's not just people streaming into New Mexico. Abortion clinics unable to operate in restrictive states have sought refuge in the Land of Enchantment.

The Mississippi clinic at the center of Dobbs v. Jackson relocated to Las Cruces, in the southern part of the state. It's now called Pink House West. And Whole Woman's Health, which had multiple locations in Texas, has moved to Albuquerque.

But as the state became a sanctuary for the abortion rights movement, those on the other side watched with worry and downright disgust. Then they took action.

"What has happened in New Mexico is that they've set up these laws and have given carte blanche for all of these profiteering abortion businesses to come to New Mexico, if they're not already here," said Elisa Martinez, founder of New Mexico Alliance for Life.

"In these outlying rural communities of New Mexico … these are not our values," she said. "There's a huge disconnect between the policies that are being shoved down our throats by these politicians and what people actually believe."

A fight over 'sanctuary'

Clovis is known for three things: farming, ranching and rock 'n' roll. It's home to the Norman Petty Studios, where Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison once recorded. The area's fertile land produces grain and other crops, from potatoes to pumpkins.

There is no abortion provider in the community. Some residents say there's never been. And the town is located hundreds of miles from the nearest provider in the state.

No matter.

When the state became one of the top destinations for abortion care post-Roe, some decided to take a stand.

"We didn't like it by any means," said Brown, the science teacher from Portales, 20 miles southwest of Clovis. "We still don't."

New Mexico is typically described as a blue state and, at all levels of government right now, it is. Since 2019, Democrats have held the governor's office and led the state House and Senate. The state attorney general and secretary of state are Democrats, too.

The population centers of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces are dominated by Democratic voters. But head east, to towns like Clovis, Hobbs, Roswell and others, and the ideological balance shifts.

"It's much more Republican," said Timothy Krebs, a University of New Mexico political science professor. "You've got cattle ranchers, you've got farming, you've got oil and gas, and then you've got proximity to Texas, which I think influences things."

The state also has a libertarian streak, with many who lean conservative on fiscal matters but liberal on social policies. And more than half of its residents are Hispanic — many practicing Catholics — further complicating the political landscape.

"We're definitely a pro-choice state and will probably stay that way," Krebs said. "But it's not as straightforward as it might be in a place like California or New York or Illinois that are more ideologically liberal."

Even before Roe was reversed, New Mexico had some of the most lax laws on abortion in the nation, allowing the procedure throughout the full gestation period.

After Roe, as abortion providers and patients flowed into the state, Brown and a friend, Erick Welsh of Clovis, reached out to anti-abortion advocate Mark Lee Dickson.

Dickson, a pastor from Longview, Texas, and director of Right to Life of East Texas, oversees the "Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn" initiative, begun in 2019. Dickson travels the country to help communities pass local ordinances to ban abortion.

"I want to see abortion outlawed on every square inch of this planet," he said. "And if we ever have colonies on Mars, then there, too."

Dickson, with help from Texas lawyer Jonathan Mitchell, the strategist behind SB 8 and other anti-abortion legal maneuvers, crafts each ordinance to be unique to each town. In New Mexico, the measures aim to ban abortion by prohibiting the mailing of abortion-inducing pills like mifepristone and instruments used in surgical abortions.

Dickson contends such bans are legal, even in states where abortion has not been outlawed, because of the Comstock Act, a law passed in the 1870s that made it illegal to mail "obscene, lewd or lascivious" materials related to abortion or birth control.

The federal statute was considered dormant during the reign of Roe, but Dickson and others believe it's now back in play. The U.S. Department of Justice disagrees. Comstock is also at the heart of a court case seeking to ban mifepristone nationally.

A recent "Sanctuary Cities" event in Prescott Valley, Arizona, drew about 40 people. "We've been wanting to come to Arizona for quite some time," Dickson called out to the crowd.

In Clovis, Brown and Welsh worried abortion providers would set up shop, given the proximity to Texas. After connecting with Dickson, they convened the September interest meeting at Grace Covenant church, and things took off from there.

Welsh, 40, has lived in Clovis since he was 5 years old. He found his faith in the middle of a rehabilitation center during a struggle with substance abuse in late 2017. Before that, he was spiraling and on the brink of losing all he had — his wife, kids, job and even his life.

He began his adult life with few opinions on abortion, none against it. Now, he dedicates himself to God and, with that, fighting against abortion.

"It is either for babies or against babies. That's it," he said. "There is no justifiable reason why anyone should be taking the life of a person, whether it is after they're born or before they're born. It's that simple."

After holding several more events to rally community members, Brown, Welsh and other proponents succeeded in getting the ordinance on the agenda of the Clovis City Commission. It was debated at four different meetings – each so full many were not allowed into the chamber – before passing on Jan. 5.

But not all in Clovis united behind the effort.

After Roe was reversed, Clovis residents Laura Wight and Sarah Hartzell met at a protest, then together started the group Eastern New Mexico Rising to advocate for abortion and other progressive ideals in this conservative region.

"We came up with the name, we created a Facebook group, we started sharing information and just trying to connect with people …and it just exploded from there," said Wight, who works as a library and museum director.

She said the group now stands at about 300 members, including educators, mothers, nurses and military wives living on Cannon Air Force Base just west of Clovis.

When word spread of Brown and Welsh's efforts, Eastern New Mexico Rising jumped into action. Wight, Hartzell and other group members began speaking at commission meetings.

When they lost that battle, they tried to put the ordinance to a public vote but failed to gather enough signatures.

"We're still working to get voices heard, but there are folks in the more populated areas who are very quick to sort of paint the brush for the whole state when we're over here and we still need help," Wight said. "We're still fighting."

As Clovis debated, other New Mexico counties and towns passed anti-abortion ordinances: Roosevelt County, which includes Portales; Eunice, a small town south of Clovis; Edgewood, located just east of Albuquerque; Lea County, which abuts Texas to the east and south; and Hobbs, a city just 6 miles from the Texas line.

"I may not be able to change the culture in our state, but I'm confident we could change the culture in our city," said Lori Bova, a founding member of the Lea County chapter of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico and a key advocate of the ordinance in Hobbs.

A mother's fight

Faith and family. For Bova, those two words shape her core values and mold how she's approached her activism for the last 25 years.

Bova has dedicated her life to the anti-abortion sphere, a purpose she discovered as a senior in high school after she learned she was pregnant.

"The world will tell you that's the end of your life. You can't be successful. You can't go on. Well, it's just not the truth," she said. "It actually was probably the beginning of my life, because it gave me a much more keen awareness of the value of life."

She decided to put her baby up for adoption. Bova then went to college, had a career in corporate America and settled down with her husband, Craig, to start her family.

While adoption helped inspire Bova's interest in anti-abortion activism, another loss cemented her focus. In 1999, Bova and her husband were expecting their first child. The baby, Maddison Grace, had grown in Bova's womb for 41 weeks.

"I was overdue – huge – and in the summer I went in for a stress test just to make sure everything was OK."

Bova was induced and, during labor, the placenta detached prematurely, leaving Maddison without her lifeline. The baby died.

"They were able to bring her into the room, and we were able to hold her," Bova said. "In that moment, I knew she had a purpose, and I think part of that purpose was for her mother to fight for every little baby like her."

Bova moved from Arkansas to New Mexico 12 years ago to start a Christian academy for children. When she learned about New Mexico's abortion laws, she began advocating at the state level and contacting her legislators.

"But I realized there was almost too much ground that needed to be gained."

Then Bova learned of Mark Lee Dickson and his ordinances. "It turned out to be a great path," she said.

The night Hobbs commissioners voted for the ordinance, Bova found herself sitting next to a state legislator, who told her the right way to address the issue was in the Legislature, not in individual communities.

"I said, 'Well, Santa Fe has had 50 years since Roe v. Wade was passed to do something to protect women, and they've done nothing. And so if we can do something to even protect women and preborn babies in our little corner, then I think we should do it,'" Bova said.

"I think the Lord worked in a very creative way to bring us something."

'State law is state law'

The city ordinances may be creative but, experts note, they are not enforceable.

"State law is state law," said Krebs, the political scientist. "Local governments are creatures of state governments, so they can't really have their own policies in this area."

The ordinances, he added, are "just symbolic."

In March, the New Mexico Legislature took steps to further cement abortion rights. Lawmakers passed House Bill 7 to protect abortion and gender-affirming health care and allow civil penalties for violations. The measure also prohibits public entities from approving or enforcing ordinances or policies that conflict with state law.

"Everyone deserves access to essential health care no matter what corner of our state they call home," state Rep. Reena Szczepanski, a Democrat, said when the bill was signed into law.

Other new laws prohibit entities in New Mexico from sharing patient information related to abortion care to aid outside civil or criminal investigations or disciplinary proceedings and allocate $10 million toward a reproductive health clinic in Doña Ana County, which includes Las Cruces.

While all of that was happening, Bova joined Mark Lee Dickson in Washington, D.C. In front of the U.S. Supreme Court, they, along with Eunice city officials, announced a lawsuit against Gov. Lujan Grisham and the state attorney general over efforts to invalidate the local ordinances.

That case is on hold while the state Supreme Court considers a separate challenge involving the ordinances.

The new laws were big wins for abortion rights advocates like Laura Wight and Sarah Hartzell, but those on the other side aren't worried. Their fight will continue, said Welsh, the anti-abortion advocate from Clovis.

"This is a long game, it's not a short game," he said. "And our hope is not in the state and it's not in the Supreme Court. It's in God alone."

One year later

On June 24, the morning of the first anniversary of Dobbs v. Jackson, the sun rose on an old dentist's office in Las Cruces that has been converted into a destination for women seeking abortion care.

The parking lot of Pink House West, formerly Jackson Women's Health Clinic in Mississippi, held one car – an employee's with a New Mexico license plate – when the clinic opened.

The sounds of morning doves and faint chatter from nearby apartments filled the air.

This quiet is new.

Last year, after Pink House West announced the move to Las Cruces, anti-abortion protesters amassed in this spot. They listened as officials with the Texas-based Southwest Coalition for Life announced it would open a so-called "crisis pregnancy center" next door.

Separated by a drainage ditch, a handful of abortion rights activists waved signs and chanted as the anti-abortion crowd drowned them out with calls of, "With God, all things are possible."

The sun set that night as the two groups warred over the future of abortion in New Mexico.

The fight may be gone now from the doorstep of Pink House West, but the battle rages on – in New Mexico and all across the land.


News21 reporters Kevin Palomino, Jada Respress, Elise Gregg, April Michelle Pierdant, and Joseph Kual Zakaria contributed to this story. This report is part of " America After Roe," an examination of the impact of the reversal of Roe v. Wade on health care, culture, policy and people, produced by Carnegie-Knight News21. For more stories, visit

Albuquerque chose not to send out a mass alert about the plastic fire - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

As the Atkore United Poly Systems fire was burning in southeast Albuquerque, Dr. Johnnye Lewis was receiving calls from people living in the Nob Hill neighborhood about six miles to the north wondering why their throats were burning.

They told her they received no alerts about the plastic fire because they had not opted into the city’s email list for health alerts.

Lewis is a member of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board, through which the city and county are supposed to regulate local air quality. She was speaking during a regular Board meeting on Aug. 9.

“There were no banner alerts on public broadcasting networks,” she said.

She said the Amber Alert network is a reverse-dial network for anyone in a given geographic region.

Board Chair Maxine Paul said Amber Alert would be a better technology to use in situations like this. In Albuquerque, this system is called ABQ ALERT.

Asked for comment on the suggestions by those sitting on the Board and members of the public, the city’s Environmental Health Department said this week that they could have tapped into the Amber Alert system, but chose not to.

“With the wind conditions we were experiencing and AFR and BernCo Fire’s ability to extinguish the fire quickly, it was not necessary for us to extend the health alert or create any additional panic among Albuquerque residents,” said Maia Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the department.

There is an exception that allows the city to use the federal Wireless Emergency Alert System to send to an entire targeted area like Amber Alerts, Rodriguez said, but the city chose not to trigger that exception.

“While the City does have the capability to tap into that system when needed, this event did not require such a use,” Rodriguez said. “The Wireless Emergency Alert System alerts only cover critical emergency situations.”

During public comment, Thomas De Pree, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said there was no cohesive disaster response to the plastic fire.

He said UNM would like to open a dialogue about what capacity the city and state governments have to figure out exactly where air pollution spreads in the local landscape, called “atmospheric deposition modeling.”

“The Amber Alert and the reverse-dialing systems to alert everyone who could be in the pathway of that atmospheric deposition is key,” De Pree said.

Lewis said it would be really helpful for a reverse message system to send alerts to any phone in the vicinity of a fire.

“Something like that would have been really helpful, because I think people were really at a loss for information,” Lewis said. “We don’t have an effective plan in place to notify the whole public about these steps as they go forward.”

Rodriguez said the alerts can include those “involving imminent threats to safety or life,” or those “conveying recommendations for saving lives and property,” national alerts issued by the president or the head of FEMA, or those about missing children.

She did not answer Source NM’s question about who at the city made the decision that the plastic fire did not rise to the level of an “imminent threat to safety or life.”

‘You should be part of a much broader solution’

Paul said board members want Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department to follow up with the incident commanders for fire response, and emphasize the importance of public health.

She said the Board will review the incident, how the commanders and the city work together, “and what those lessons learned will be.”

Environmental Health Department Associate Director Christopher Albrecht represented the department at the Aug. 9 meeting. Its director, Angel Martinez, Jr., was not present.

In response to the board member’s criticisms, the first thing Albrecht said was to emphasize that Albuquerque Fire and Rescue was in command of the scene.

“As I stated, AFR was the incident command,” he said, and then explained to Lewis the purpose of incident command.

“So any time an emergency response — whatever they felt was necessary, it’s out of my purview,” he said.

Lewis said there must be coordination between Albrecht, first responders, and everyone else, so that more people have access to the health alerts.

“I think what the whole country is learning with these kinds of situations — with woodsmoke coming into the city, with any of these incidents — we have to, somehow, a regionally coordinated response,” Lewis said. “What became really clear on (Aug. 6) is, we don’t have that. So I’m not blaming you.”

Albrecht interrupted her, “No.”

And Lewis continued, “But I’m saying you should be part of a much broader solution that works between the city and the county, and all those departments.”

Lewis said she and others on the board felt left out.

Celerah Hewes, a southeast Albuquerque resident and national field manager at Moms Clean Air Force, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, said she’s concerned there was not a communication about the amount of smoke, or making clear “that it’s not just a normal fire.”

“I felt like there was a lack of communication about that danger to people that were nearby,” Hewes said.

She was already aware that when plastic burns it is highly toxic, releasing cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, and that there are rules about plastic incineration under the federal Clean Air Act for a reason.

She thinks there needed to be more discussion in the alerts of what was burning and what that means, not just that something was burning.

River of Lights hit-and-run trial hits constitutional issues - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

Constitutional issues have arisen at the trial of Sergio Almanza –– the man accused of hitting a 7-year-old boy at an intersection just outside of the River of Lights in Old Town Albuquerque, killing him.

As the Albuquerque Journal reports, this comes after a key witness Thursday made statements that involved a conspiracy to conceal the crime.

Edgar Casas said in his statement that he helped conceal Almanza’s off-road vehicle involved in the crash, which led to an objection by Almanza’s attorney that Casas has a constitutional right not to incriminate himself.

That could mean a potential mistrial because Casas’ attorney advised him not to offer “any additional testimony,” which could shield him from being questioned in any sort of cross-examination — a basic constitutional right guaranteed to defendants.

To move forward in the trial, a private interview will be held Friday to learn more about Casas’ testimony and role in the trial.

Sergio Almanza is charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence in the death of Pronoy Bhattacharya.

NM AG sues shuttered solar company - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez has sued a solar energy company alleging it collected large deposits from residential customers but failed to install their systems before shutting down.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the AG filed suit against the New Mexico Solar Group for consumer fraud in First Judicial District Court.

The company, based in Albuquerque, shut down on Aug. 11 — but not before some customers had paid thousands in partial or full payments for solar systems.

The lawsuit alleges the company was aware its finances were rocky and that it would likely shutter, but continued taking deposits.

The Journal reports that it’s aware of at least 10 customers who paid the company without getting their system installed. All say they have been unable to contact the company since its closure.

Torrez’s office is attempting to identify all affected New Mexico consumers.

APS hires driving service for students with no other option - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

Albuquerque Public Schools students with no way to get to school now have more options.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the APS school board Wednesday unanimously approved a contract with transportation company First Student.

The company deploys drivers in passenger vehicles to pick up students who won’t get to school otherwise. The district estimates it has around 30 students in that situation, including unhoused and foster youth.

Before a student is eligible for the service, APS said it will first exhaust any other options, like its school bus system.

Executive Director of Student, Family and Community Supports Kristine Meurer said the district too often loses students who bounce from school to school. She said the service can help provide stability by allowing students to stay at their school of origin.

The four-year contract will cost the district $1.2 million, which it said it will pay for using federal funding.

Biden policy allowing migrants from 4 countries into the US is praised, criticized at Texas trial - By Juan A. Lozano Associated Press

During a trial Thursday on the fate of an immigration program focused on people from Central America and the Caribbean, lawyers for Texas and 20 other Republican-leaning states suing to stop it accused the federal initiative of being outside the law.

But an American sponsoring one of the migrants — a 34-year-old friend from Nicaragua named Oldrys and who's now in the U.S. thanks to the program — praised its economic benefits and credited it for letting him reciprocate kindness to someone in need.

"We really see this as an opportunity to welcome Oldrys into our family .... in a time of need for him," said Eric Sype.

Under the humanitarian parole program, up to 30,000 people are being allowed each month to enter the U.S. from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The federal government and immigrant rights groups are defending the program, saying it's been successful at reducing migration and a humanitarian crisis on the southern border and has provided a safe pathway to the U.S. for desperate migrants who would otherwise be paying human smugglers and bogging down border agents.

A federal trial on the states' lawsuit was being presided over by U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in Victoria, Texas. Tipton, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, has previously ruled against the Biden administration on who to prioritize for deportation.

Migrants paroled into the program have a sponsor who vouches for them financially.

In court on Thursday, Sype, of Oakland, California, testified that he helped Oldrys apply for the program, and connected him with housing and a job. He now lives in Sype's childhood home in Washington state, where Sype's cousin has offered Oldrys a job on the family's farm, which has always struggled to find enough workers. Sype said his friend Oldrys, whose last name has not been released, was struggling to find work and support his family in Nicaragua, a country facing economic struggles from hurricane damage, political uprisings and the pandemic.

Lawyers for Texas argued on Thursday that the parole program is forcing them to spend millions of dollars on health care, driver's licenses, public education and incarceration costs associated with the paroled migrants.

In opening arguments against the states and in support of the government policy, lawyer Monika Langarica, of the UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy, said those claims were inaccurate. She pointed to Oldrys' case as an example of how the program can help fill critical labor shortages in a boost to the economy.

Langarica said that for over 70 years, immigration law has given presidents the authority to grant such parole.

The UCLA center is one of the groups arguing on behalf of seven people sponsoring migrants, including Sype.

Sype was the only witness during the trial as attorneys for Texas and the U.S. Justice Department, which is representing the federal government in the lawsuit, didn't offer testimony. They then rested their cases based on evidence previously submitted.

Closing arguments in the trial began Thursday afternoon and were set to finish Friday. Tipton was expected to issue a ruling at a later date. The trial was being livestreamed from Victoria to a federal courtroom in Houston.

In closing arguments, Gene Hamilton, one of the attorneys representing the states, said the federal government was not following immigration law because the large number of migrants being paroled in the U.S. shows officials are granting parole en masse and not on a case by case basis as required.

As of the end of July, more than 72,000 Haitians, 63,000 Venezuelans, 41,000 Cubans and 34,000 Nicaraguans had been vetted and authorized to come to the U.S. through the parole program.

The Biden administration "created a shadow immigration system," said Hamilton, an attorney with America First Legal Foundation, a conservative legal nonprofit led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller that's working with the Texas Attorney General's Office to represent the states.

While the Republican states' lawsuit is objecting to the use of humanitarian parole for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, it hasn't raised any concerns for its use to grant entry to tens of thousands of Ukrainians when Russia invaded.

The parole program was started for Venezuelans in fall 2022 and then expanded in January. People taking part must apply online, arrive at an airport and have a financial sponsor in the U.S. If approved, they can stay for two years and get a work permit.

Other programs the administration has implemented to reduce illegal immigration have also faced legal challenges.