SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will visit Utah on Thursday before submitting a review on national monuments in the state. Residents there have both staunchly supported establishing and increasing the size of national monuments, and fiercely rallied against them. Haaland is the latest Interior secretary tasked with making recommendations on where the boundaries lie. Her input comes after President Donald Trump's administration decided to downsize two national monuments in southern Utah. She's expected to submit a report to President Joe Biden after she meets with tribes and elected leaders at Bears Ears National Monument.
- JURY DUTY-OLDER RESIDENTS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new state law will make it easier for older residents in New Mexico to permanently excuse themselves from jury service. The law applies to state residents age 75 or older who have been summoned to jury duty. They no longer will be required to submit a sworn, notarized statement if they want to be excused from jury service. Starting June 18, qualifying New Mexicans can request an excusal online through the state court system's jury website. Another option is to call the local court for more information. Census Bureau population estimates say 7% of New Mexicans are 75 years or older. That's about 153,000 residents.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 16 more confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths. The latest figures bring the pandemic totals on the tribe's reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, increased to 30,198 cases. The known death toll remains at 1,259. On Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 B.1.429 variant on the Navajo Nation, which came from a test sample obtained in the Chinle service unit area. The variant was first identified in the state of California and has since been detected across the southwest U.S.
- IMMIGRATION-BORDER CROSSINGS
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. authorities say they picked up nearly 19,000 children traveling alone across the Mexican border in March. It's the largest monthly number ever recorded and a major test for President Joe Biden as he reverses many of his predecessor's hardline immigration tactics. A complex mix of policies and conditions in the United States and Central America is driving the increase. It coincides with the Biden administration's decision to exempt unaccompanied children from pandemic-related powers to immediately expel most people from the country without giving them an opportunity to seek asylum.
Nearly 19,000 children traveling alone were stopped at the Mexican border in March, smashing previous highs set during periods of heavy child migration in 2014 and 2019. Is it a crisis? Migration to the U.S. from Mexico is increasing in a major way for the third time in seven years under Republican and Democratic presidents — and for similar reasons. Central Americans have been fleeing poverty and violence for decades, and Hurricane Eta in November and hunger have given new impetus for some in Guatemala and Honduras. Migrants also are guided by changes U.S. policy — both real and rumored.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed civil rights reforms Wednesday that eliminate police immunity from prosecution in state courts, in response to protests and concerns about police brutality that swept the nation. The Democrat-sponsored legislation has implications for an array of state and local government agencies, from social services agencies to school districts. The bill was backed by an unusual coalition of advocates for policing reforms and social justice causes. They include the civic-minded founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and the conservative-backed nonprofit group Americans for Prosperity. Lujan Grisham signed the bill amid the trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on murder charges in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Beaten down by the pandemic, some laid-off or idle restaurant workers have pivoted to dishing out food with a taste of home. The circumstances of the past year have led to some finding their entrepreneurial side, slinging culinary creations from their own kitchens. That can lead to run-ins or accommodations with state health regulations. Trained and aspiring chefs and caterers say they're looking for more money and a purpose. Their plight has cast light on an ongoing debate over regulations on the sale of home-cooked meals. The rules around serving food for immediate consumption vary across state and local jurisdictions.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials are reporting more progress in getting residents vaccinated as the state continues to lead the U.S. in the vaccine rollout. State Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins says 50% of residents 16 and older have received their first shot and 31% are fully vaccinated. New Mexico on Monday expanded vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and older. New Mexico National Guard soldiers are operating a vaccine distribution center in Albuquerque to help with the effort. In all, the National Guard has completed more than 1,230 missions during the pandemic and has logged more than 1.6 million miles along with the Civil Air Patrol.