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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. MDT


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Officials say the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University face the prospect of major budget challenges. State funding has been reduced in the fiscal fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and reduced energy prices. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that UNM likely faces a $22 million cut in state funding while NMSU will have about $20 million less to spend in the current fiscal year due to reduced state funding, revenue losses from lower enrollment and other circumstances. Legislators and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved spending cuts to help close a budget gap caused by the pandemic and falling oil revenues. 


PHOENIX (AP) — A federal court in Maryland has ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must be restored fully, meaning it must open up to new applicants for the first time in three years. The program helps immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to legally work and protects them from deportation. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump didn't properly end the program in 2017. Roughly 650,000 people are enrolled in DACA, but only those who were already in the program when it ended have been able to renew. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it is reviewing the ruling. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top public education officials say many schools have submitted requests to start the school year with remote classes rather than return to the classroom immediately, even if under a hybrid plan. Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart testified Friday before a legislative committee on the challenges that his agency and schools are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Stewart says agility will be key as schools will need to be ready to shift gears depending on the pace of the virus. The discussion came as health officials acknowledged that New Mexico's rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases has not been good. An additional 319 cases were reported Friday.


RIO RANCHO, N.M, (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján has a nearly 6-to-1 fundraising advantage over his GOP opponent in a race for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico. Federal records show the Democrat from Nambé‎ raised nearly $1 million from mid-May to June 30. He has more than $3.3 million cash on hand going into the general election. Meanwhile, Republican Mark Ronchetti reported raising $532,500 during the same time period. The former television weatherman had $571,000 cash-on-hand. Both are seeking to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, who is retiring.


EUNICE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say they discovered a massive illegal dumping site in southeastern New Mexico while cleaning up a former limestone mining pit. The small plot of state trust land near Eunice hasn't been leased since the 1970s. Workers who were disposing of mine waste and reseeding the area found tons of trash and tires that likely had been buried there for decades. The New Mexico State Land Office says the additional work to clean up the dump bumped up the price tag for the project by $45,000. The office is seeking an environmental assessment and whoever is responsible for the illegal dumping.


ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico sheriff accused of showing up drunk to a SWAT standoff and trying to order officers away is no longer a licensed law enforcement officer in the state. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board members voted unanimously Thursday to suspend the certification of Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan. A criminal complaint filed in March said Lujan, in plainclothes, attempted to take over the scene involving a barricaded subject in Española. The complaint also says he smelled like alcohol and appeared to have trouble keeping his balance.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Border Patrol's parent agency has fired four employees and suspended 38 without pay for inappropriate social media activity. The announcement comes one year after revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked members of Congress and migrants. Customs and Border Protection said another 33 employees were disciplined with reprimands or counseling. Of 138 cases investigated, 63 were found unsubstantiated. Posts questioned the authenticity of images of a migrant father and child dead on a riverbank and depicted doctored images of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez purporting to perform a sex act on President Donald Trump. 


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A former police officer in New Mexico has been charged with second-degree murder after authorities say he killed a Latino detainee he had placed in a chokehold. State Attorney General Hector Balderas said Thursday he has filed the charge against former Las Cruces police Officer Christopher Smelser in the death of Antonio Valenzuela. Police say Smelser applied the chokehold after a foot chase in February when Valenzuela fled during a traffic stop. Smelser was initially charged with manslaughter and later fired. Smelser's attorney, Amy L. Orlando, called the new charge sad and suggested it was a political move meant to grab headlines.