- US taps groups to pick asylum-seekers to allow into country
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration has quietly tasked six humanitarian groups with recommending which migrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. instead of being rapidly expelled from the country under federal pandemic-related powers that prevent many from seeking asylum. The criteria that the groups are using for their recommendations hasn't been made public but will help them determine who is most vulnerable in Mexico. It comes as record-setting numbers of people are crossing the southern border and as the government faces intensifying pressure to lift the public health rules instituted last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Several members of the consortium provided details of the system to The Associated Press.
- Noisy protest disrupts governor's 1st reelection rally
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham revved up her campaign for reelection in 2022 with an opening rally at an outdoor museum amphitheater that was unsettled by the sound of protests just outside the venue. Chants, sirens and cries of "lock her up" threatened to drown out a series of speakers at the rally on Thursday. Lujan Grisham has been both praised and lambasted over the past year for a response to the pandemic that has included some of the most stringent public health orders in the nation. The last incumbent governor to lose reelection in New Mexico was Democrat Bruce King in 1994.
- Navajo Nation reports 13 additional COVID-19 cases, 4 deaths
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has reported 13 additional COVID-19 cases and four more deaths from the virus as of Thursday. Since the pandemic began, more than 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,328 deaths from the virus have been reported on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who accompanied his 13-year-old son as the youth received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, said people should get vaccinated. Vaccinations are available during drive-thru events or by appointments at health care facilities across the reservation.
- New Mexico wildfire forces closure of Gila Cliff Dwellings
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument will close this weekend while crews continue efforts to contain a wildfire in the Gila National Forest. The National Park Service said Thursday that the Cliff Dwellings will shut down beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and until further notice. The lightning-caused blaze, which was first reported May 20, has burned roughly 60 square miles. Firefighters will conduct burn-out operations west of the Cliff Dwellings on the so-called Johnson Fire. The hope is to reinforce fire lines and keep the blaze from getting to the Cliff Dwellings or the community of Gila Hot Springs.
- Audit deems New Mexico staff payments unconstitutional
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A state auditor in New Mexico has warned the Legislature that a plan to pay $300 to legislative staffers who worked in the Capitol this year is unconstitutional. The Albuquerque Journal reported that State Auditor Brian Colón said his office told the Legislature that the state Constitution prohibits giving extra compensation to a public servant after services are rendered. The warning was in response to legislation passed in this year's 60-day session that calls for a one-time $300 "compensation adjustment" for employees working in the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is set to take effect later this month, and up to $165,000 would be paid out after that.
- Albuquerque Sunport restoring some flights nixed by pandemic
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — With more people getting COVID-19 vaccines, the Albuquerque International Sunport is restoring some flights to its operation. City officials announced Thursday that several flight routes will be added back at the Albuquerque airport and other flights will increase their frequency. Among the returns is Delta Air Lines will resume non-stop service this weekend between the Sunport and Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport in Minnesota. Meanwhile, jetBlue will boost its non-stop flights to New York City from two to four times weekly to daily until July. Then the flight will be available five times per week until the end of the summer.
- US seeks bids to manage underground nuclear waste dump
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Energy Department is seeking bids to manage the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository. The agency issued its final request for proposals for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on Wednesday. The four-year contract to manage the southern New Mexico facility is worth about $3 billion and includes six one-year extension options. The current contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership is set to expire next April. The repository is central to the federal government's multibillion-dollar program for cleaning up Cold War-era waste left from decades of bomb making and nuclear research.
- Demand rises for New Mexico pandemic small business loans
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state finance authorities say demand appears to be building for minimum-interest loans aimed at helping small businesses that lost income or experienced major disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic. New Mexico Finance Authority CEO Marquita Russel told a panel of state legislators on Wednesday that about 865 businesses have applied to the program since an overhaul in March. That could result in new loans worth $65 million. New Mexico's small business recovery loans are repaid at half the prime rate of interest that commercial banks charge their most creditworthy customers. Zero interest is accrued during the loans' first year.