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Lawsuit alleges unsafe conditions at migrant detention facility in New Mexico | OUT WEST ROUNDUP | News


NEW MEXICO

Lawsuit alleges unsafe conditions at migrant detention facility

SANTA FE — A new class-action lawsuit alleges that U.S. immigration authorities disregarded signs of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at a detention center in New Mexico to ensure the facility would continue to receive public funding and remain open.

The lawsuit announced on Nov. 8 by a coalition of migrants’ rights advocates was filed on behalf of four Venezuelans ranging in age from 26 to 40 who have sought asylum in the U.S. and say they were denied medical care, access to working showers and adequate food at the Torrance County Detention Facility, all while being pressed into cleaning duties, sometimes without compensation.

The detention center in the rural town of Estancia, about 200 miles from the Mexico border, is contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to accommodate at least 505 adult male migrants at any time, though actual populations fluctuate.

Advocates have repeatedly alleged in recent years that the the facility has inadequate living conditions and there is limited access to legal counsel for asylum-seekers who cycle through.

The detention center failed a performance evaluation in 2021, and the lawsuit alleges that ICE scrambled to avoid documentation of a second consecutive failure that might discontinue federal funding by endorsing a “deeply flawed, lax inspection” by an independent contractor.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Nov. 9 that the agency does not comment on litigation. Last year Chief of Staff Jason Houser said ICE would continuously monitor the facility and noted that it stopped using the Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama when expectations there were not met.

Attorney general says landowners keeping public from Pecos River

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico’s top prosecutor is going after landowners who he says are illegally and unconstitutionally depriving the public of access to stretches of one of the state’s most well-known rivers.

The case involving access to the Pecos River is the first brought after the state Supreme Court in 2022 settled a long-simmering dispute over whether boaters and anglers had a right to access streams and rivers that cross private property.

Under the New Mexico Constitution, water within the state belongs to the public but the banks next to that water and the land beneath the water may be owned privately. The court found that public easement covers what would be reasonably necessary to use the water itself and that any use of the beds and banks must have minimal impact.

Attorney General Raúl Torrez brought the case after people reported being threatened by landowners with physical violence for wading, fishing and boating on portions of the Pecos River that flow through private land. Some landowners had put up concertina wire and other barriers to keep people from floating or wading in the river.

Advocates of private property rights have argued for years that opening up waterways will result in decreased property values and less interest by owners to invest in conserving tracts of land along streams.

The complaint also asks the court to declare that the river is a public waterway and that the defendants do not have the right to defend their adjacent property with deadly force or threats of violence.

IDAHO

Federal judge pauses ‘abortion trafficking’ law during lawsuit

BOISE — A federal judge has temporarily blocked Idaho’s “abortion trafficking” law from being enforced while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is underway.

“This lawsuit is not about the right to an abortion. It is about much more,” U.S. District Magistrate Debora K. Grasham wrote in the ruling handed down on Nov. 8.

Abortion is banned in Idaho at all stages of pregnancy, and the law enacted in May was designed to prevent minors from getting abortions in states where the procedure is legal if they don’t have their parents’ permission. Under the law, people who help a minor who isn’t their own child arrange an abortion out of state can be charged with a felony, though they can then attempt to defend themselves in court later by proving that the minor had parental permission for the trip.

Supporters of the law call it an “abortion trafficking” ban. Opponents say it is an unconstitutional prohibition on interstate travel and free speech rights.

Two advocacy groups and an attorney who works with sexual assault victims sued the state and Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador over the law earlier this year.

They said the law is so vague that they can’t tell what conduct would or would not be legal, and that it violates the First Amendment right of free expression. They also argued that the law infringes on the Fourth Amendment right to travel between states, as well as the right to travel within Idaho.

Grasham agreed with the state’s attorneys that there is no court-protected right of travel within the state under existing case law in Idaho, and she dismissed that part of the lawsuit. But she said the other three claims could move forward, noting that the plaintiffs’ intended assistance to minors is essentially an expression of their core beliefs, in the form of messages of “support and solidarity for individuals seeking legal reproductive options.”

UTAH

Court dismisses child sex abuse lawsuit against Mormon church

An Arizona judge has dismissed a high-profile child sexual abuse lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ruling that church officials who knew that a church member was sexually abusing his daughter had no duty to report the abuse to police or social service agencies because the information was received during a spiritual confession.

In a ruling on Nov. 3, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson said the state’s clergy-penitent privilege excused two bishops and several other officials with the church, widely known as the Mormon church, from the state’s child sex abuse mandatory reporting law because Paul Adams initially disclosed during a confession that he was sexually abusing his daughter.

Although the church excommunicated Adams, its decision to withhold his abusive behavior from civil authorities allowed him to continue abusing his daughter for seven years, during which he began abusing a second daughter, starting when she was just 6 weeks old.

Adams recorded his abuse of his daughters on video and posted the pornographic videos on the internet. The abuse stopped only when Homeland Security agents arrested Adams in 2017 in Arizona, after authorities in New Zealand and the United States traced one of the videos to him. Adams died by suicide in custody while awaiting trial.

Lynne Cadigan, an attorney representing the Adams children who filed the 2021 lawsuit, said she will appeal the ruling.

In a prepared statement, the church said the court found that the church and its clergy “handled this matter consistent with Arizona law.”

ARIZONA

Capitol rioter plans 2024 congressional run as Libertarian

PHOENIX — Jacob Chansley, the spear-carrying rioter whose horned fur hat, bare chest and face paint made him one of the more recognizable figures in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, apparently aspires to be a member of Congress.

Online paperwork shows the 35-year-old Chansley filed a candidate statement of interest on Nov. 9, indicating he wants to run as a Libertarian in next year’s election for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District seat.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, a 64-year-old Republican representing the district since 2018, announced last month that she won’t seek re-election.

Chansley pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding in connection with the Capitol insurrection.

He was sentenced to 41 months in prison in November 2021 and served about 27 months before being transferred to a Phoenix halfway house in March 2023. Chansely grew up in the greater Phoenix area.

Chansley is among the more than 700 people who have been sentenced in relation to Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Authorities said Chansley was among the first rioters to enter the Capitol building and he acknowledged using a bullhorn to rouse the mob.

Although he previously called himself the “QAnon Shaman,” Chansley has since disavowed the QAnon movement.



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