Weekend News Roundup: Immigration Courts Backing Up With Kids

Jul 11, 2014

Backlogged Immigration Courts Face New DelugeAssociated Press

The country's backlogged immigration courts are bracing for a deluge of cases after tens of thousands of Central American children began arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Lauren Alder Reid, counsel for legislative and public affairs at the U.S. Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review, says the courts have temporarily reassigned judges to hear cases in southern Texas and at a New Mexico detention facility via teleconferencing since the influx.

She could not say how many cases have been postponed, but she expects the surge in immigration will have a significant impact on other immigrants' cases.

The immigration courts are backlogged with more than 375,000 cases, and it can take months or years for immigrants not in detention facilities to get a hearing, let alone a resolution.  

Settlement: $2.25 Million Payment From NM Mining Company - The Associate Press

A Rio Arriba company accused of illegally mining pumice from the Santa Fe National Forest has paid the federal government $2.25 million as part of a settlement.

Federal prosecutors announced the settlement with Copar Pumice Co. Inc. this week. They say the agreement requires the company to relinquish all rights to its mining claims within the Jemez National Recreation Area.

The U.S. Justice Department in 2009 filed a civil lawsuit against Copar and owners Richard Cook, Shirley Cook, Debbie Cantrup and Kelly Armstrong.

Prosecutors say Copar was authorized to remove larger-sized pumice, solely for its value and use in the stonewash laundry industry. They accused the company of crushing pumice and removing undersized pumice from the El Cajete Mine and selling it for uses outside the laundry industry.

NM Delegation: Public Faith In VA Is ErodingThe Associated Press

New Mexico's congressional delegation has serious concerns about the handling of a patient's death at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque and the agency's lack of transparency.

The delegation outlined the concerns in a letter sent to the acting VA Secretary. 

The senators and representatives say the NM VA Health Care System’s lack of transparency is eroding the public's faith and is inhibiting the delegation's ability to conduct any kind of oversight of the VA in New Mexico.

The delegation is asking for several pieces of information to be made public, including the hospital's emergency policy and staff training materials.

The VA has come under intense scrutiny nationally following reports of patient deaths, secret waiting lists, delayed care and mismanagement.

Amtrak CEO To Stop In New Mexico About Train Route - The Associated Press

Amtrak's top executive is to travel through New Mexico to meet with officials about keeping the Southwest Chief on its current route.

But New Mexico Transportation Department spokeswoman Melissa Dosher said Thursday no state official plans to meet with Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman because the administration never received a formal invitation.

Boardman is taking a special train along the Southwest Chief route from Kansas to Albuquerque.

Amtrak has warned that the route might be changed unless portions of the track are improved. Amtrak proposes that New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas share track expenses.

Boardman will stop Saturday at Raton, Las Vegas and Lamy. He's to meet with local officials and will go by car to the Philmont Scout Ranch.

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich will travel with Boardman.

New Mexico Judge Elected By Coin Toss After Tie - The Associated Press and Gallup Independent

A New Mexico county magistrate race that ended in a tie has been decided by a flip of a coin.

Kenneth Howard Jr. made the lucky call in a coin toss Tuesday in a Gallup courtroom, winning a four-year term as McKinley County magistrate judge.

The Gallup Independent reports that a recount of the June 3 Democratic primary found Howard and Robert Baca each received exactly 2,879 votes.

State law mandates a tie must be decided by lot.

A Democratic Party official tossed a 50-cent piece, and Howard got to make the call as the candidate who was lower on the ballot.

Since there's no opponent on the general election ballot, Howard gets the job.

Baca says he's disappointed by the result but relieved that both candidates finally know who won.

Dartmouth To Offer Native American Program In NM - The Associated Press and Valley News

Dartmouth College is offering an off-campus program in New Mexico through its Department of Native American Studies starting in 2015.

The program in Santa Fe will concentrate on Native American art, tribal law and government. The Institute of American Indian Arts will host the program and its students will be able to enroll in Dartmouth's classes.

Department Chairman N. Bruce Duthu tells the Valley News the program's primary goal will be for students to engage native communities in ways that aren't possible in a Hanover classroom, "so that native people aren't just appearing in textbooks or films." He said students could see a tribal council or court in action.

The program will take 16 students every other year.

Sipapu To Manage Pajarito Mountain Ski Area - The Associated Press

Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort is taking over management of Los Alamos's Pajarito Mountain Ski Area.

Los Alamos County and Sipapu on Thursday announced the agreement for the upcoming season. Sipapu also says it will offer a New Mexico Power Pass for unlimited access to both mountains, plus free lift tickets at more than 20 other ski areas throughout the country.

The Los Alamos Ski Club operated Pajarito for over seven decades. But the ski area in recent years has had little snow. In May, members approved transferring it to Los Alamos County and the management group that operates Sipapu.

The Sipapu Group has been working with the Los Alamos Ski Club and the county to improve Pajarito's snowmaking infrastructure in order to ensure a full operating season.