Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

Mar 23, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump administration official says illegal border crossings have dropped by half as the strictest U.S.-Mexico border policies yet went into place amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite confusion about how it was all working. Anyone caught crossing the border illegally is to be immediately returned back to Mexico or Canada, according to the new restrictions based on an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday. According Mark Morgan, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the decision applies to all migrants.  


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has given orders to establish a coronavirus testing site in each of the state's 33 counties. Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said she received the order to expand the reach of testing facilities on Sunday as the COVID-19 virus spread far beyond the Albuquerque-Santa Fe population corridor to the oil-producing southeast corner of the state. The state lists 20 available coronavirus screening sites. Kunkel joined a town call-in forum on state and federal responses to the coronavirus hosted by U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. Callers denounced shortages in protective equipment for medical workers and probed for economic survival tips. 


CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Oil companies have begun reducing operations in the Permian Basin as the new coronavirus slows global energy demands and adds to the drop in the price of oil. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Houston-based Apache Corporation announced it would pull all its oil and gas rigs out of the Permian to save on short-term spending. Pioneer Natural Resources, which operates mostly in the Delaware Basin on the western side of the Permian and is one of the largest acreage holders in the region, also announced a significant cut in operations. Overall, Pioneer's capital budget was to be cut by 45 percent.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Health officials say eight more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New Mexico, pushing the total to 65. The New Mexico Department of Health said in a statement that one of the new cases was a 9-year-old boy in McKinley County. Officials said two other COVID-19 cases were in Bernalillo County, which includes metro Albuquerque and now has 34 of the 65 overall cases. Officials said a woman in her 60s and a man in his 30s tested positive in Bernalillo County while a woman in her 50s and another female in her 20s had positive tests in Doña Ana County. A man in his 30s and a man in his 40s were the news cases in Santa Fe County along with a man in his 50s in San Juan County.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The family of a 92-year-old woman who froze to death in Santa Fe has filed a lawsuit saying Santa Fe police did not try hard enough to find her. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a lawyer for Antonia Garcia's family said last week they believe she may have gotten lost while on her way to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in March 2019. The wrongful death complaint filed in state District Court says a neighbor called police around 11:25 p.m. that day to say she saw an elderly woman leaning against a metal post. But court documents say the dispatcher and police officers treated the call as "a low priority call." A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation.


CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Ranchers in a southeastern New Mexico community and a potash company are locking in fight over water rights connected to the Pecos River. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Denver-based Intrepid Potash recently claimed ownership of about 35,000 acre feet of water rights along the Pecos, with 19,000 identified for consumption. Ranchers in a rural area south of Carlsbad said that move could completely drain the Pecos. The Carlsbad Irrigation District filed litigation intended to block Intrepid's ownership of the water and seven "preliminary authorizations" granted by the Office of the State Engineer to change the point of diversion and manner of use of the water. Intrepid's attorney declined to comment.


HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Junior College Board has voted to raise tuition. The Hobbs News-Sun reports the governing board of the southeastern New Mexico school approved Thursday a plan to increase tuition by $1 per semester hour. Under the plan, in-district tuition will go from $38 to $39 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. Out-of-district tuition will go from $57 to $58 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. Out-of-state tuition will go from $69 to $70 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. 


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Asylum-seekers who are sent back to Mexico to wait for hearings in U.S. immigration court rarely find attorneys. The Associated Press contacted all 21 attorney's offices on a government list of free and low-cost providers in courts that handle such cases and found that only two have taken on a large load. Some legal aid groups have taken a small number of cases, and a few offer free "know your rights" talks. The scarcity of attorneys helps explain why only 4% asylum-seekers subject to the "Remain in Mexico" policy won their decisions, while the nationwide rate is 29%.