July 27, 2017
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Anson Stevens-Bollen

The End of Everything

What happens in New Mexico under President Trump?

December 21, 2016, 12:00 am

The vision for America barked by Donald Trump on the campaign trail does not reflect our community’s values. Santa Fe County voters—80 percent of them—rejected him at the polls. Still, Trump will take the Oath of Office next month, securing control of the White House, Border Patrol and thousands of nukes. His administration will enact policies that will almost certainly leave deep impressions on our city and across New Mexico. We took a look at some of the president-elect’s campaign promises and how they could play out here.

Healthcare

On the campaign trail, candidate Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Like rants against Islam and political correctness, attacking the law became one of his most reliable applause lines at rallies.

The president-elect has since softened his position on healthcare, promising to keep some of Obamacare’s most popular provisions. Still, Trump wants to abolish the individual mandate, an integral piece of the hocus-pocus designed to keep rates low. His pick for the Department of Health and Human Services, US Rep. Tom Price from Georgia, is an outspoken opponent of Obamacare. And with the help of a Republican Congress, he could dismantle the Medicaid expansion, the most substantive provision of Obama’s signature healthcare policy.

Nearly 300,000 New Mexicans started receiving Medicaid in 2014, cutting the state’s uninsured rate in half, after legislators voted to expand coverage. Obamacare opened up billions of federal dollars to help the state insure low-income citizens. Gov. Susana Martinez supported the effort, one of the first Republican leaders to buck the party line on the policy.

With the state in financial straits, Medicaid already faces cuts. Trump’s proposals could ax the system. He supports block grants, a program pushed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, which would create a set amount of federal dollars available to each state. That would almost certainly cut coverage for New Mexico, says Sireesha Manne, supervising healthcare attorney for the New Mexico Center of Law and Poverty. Our state could show, shall we say, tremendous leadership to prevent that from happening. “Our governor has an opportunity to be out in front and protect healthcare in our state,” Manne says. (Steven Hsieh)

Immigration

Trump kicked off his campaign sowing fear of Mexican immigrants, labeling them criminals and rapists. And he didn’t slow down from there. Xenophobia pumped the heart of Trump’s bid for the White House, with promises to deport undocumented immigrants, construct a wall along the southern border and temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country.

Since November, the president-elect has modified his plan. Rather than deporting 12 million undocumented immigrants, he told 60 Minutes that he would target 2 to 3 million “people that are criminal or have criminal records.” But the best available data shows that even those most recent numbers are overestimates, and certainly include green-card holders and people whose only crime is entering the country without papers.

Trump has also promised to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, essentially local governments who don’t commit resources to helping deportation authorities. It’s legally disputed, however, how much and what kinds of cash Trump can actually tie to local policies.

Still, Santa Fe, a sanctuary city, has not taken Trump’s threats lying down. City councilors, working with Somos Un Pueblo Unido, last week introduced a resolution that strengthens the city’s immigrant policies. Among other provisions, the proposal would ban all city employees from inquiring about people’s immigration status and require police officers to process special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes and are willing to cooperate in investigations.

Mayor Javier Gonzales has become a national spokesman for the sanctuary movement, giving interviews to Fox News, CNN, NPR, Rolling Stone and Vice News. Gonzales’ media tour follows a strong tradition in New Mexico for protecting immigrants, says Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido. She tells SFR, “The mayor is doing something we expect from our leaders. He’s just following in those footsteps.” (SH)

Drug Policy

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions recently said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” Back in the ’80s, when he was a federal prosecutor, Sessions “joked” that he had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they used pot. In Congress, he was one of the most vocal opponents of a bipartisan proposal to reduce sentencing for low-level offenders. His rhetoric often harkens back to the Reagan-era War on Drugs.

So when Trump selected Sessions to be his attorney general, a chill swept across the movements for marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. “Some could say he is our worst nightmare,” says Emily Kaltenbach, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance’s office in New Mexico.

New Mexico likely won’t legalize pot in the next couple years, but Kaltenbach says it’s now more important than ever to send a message that “this is a state’s issue.” On top of that, she says the state should consider laws that would reduce sentencing for drug offenses, pointing to California’s efforts to reclassify some drug felonies as misdemeanors.

And just to show how everything is connected, Kaltenbach notes that Santa Fe’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program could take a hit if Trump cuts federal spending on Medicaid. Under the LEAD program, city police officers can send low-level drug or property offenders straight to treatment, instead of jail. But without insurance to pay for it, some drug users could be left hanging. (SH)

"Some could say he is our worst nightmare."
-Emily Kaltenbach, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance

LGBTQ Rights

Our self-proclaimed “traditionalist” president-elect has been wishy-washy on LGBTQ rights. Despite having “so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay,” Trump opposes nationwide marriage equality, saying that should be left up to the states. As for North Carolina’s anti-trans “bathroom bill”? Leave it up to the states. Trump says he wants to appoint new Supreme Court justices who reflect the views of the late Antonin Scalia, who was a severely anti-LGBTQ justice.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a career enemy of the LGBTQ community. As a congressman, he opposed marriage equality and laws that would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, once saying that same-sex relationships are a sign of “societal collapse.” He advocated for diverting federal HIV/AIDS funds away from organizations “that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” As governor of Indiana, Pence signed a “religious freedom” law that allows businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

Local activist Lin Bartucca is a longtime advocate for human rights. She marched in 1993 for gay, lesbian and bisexual rights in Washington DC. “Right now is not the time for us to sit back and watch,” she says. “We need to get out there and be active and proactive.” Bartucca is a firm believer in peaceful protests and plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration. “Let our voices be heard,” Bartucca tells SFR. “Attend rallies and push back.” (Kim Jones)

Reproductive Health

Women who get abortions should receive “some sort of punishment,” said Donald Trump during an interview on MSNBC this March. More recently, the president-elect’s transition team has promised to defund Planned Parenthood unless the healthcare organization halts the service. Such a move could restrict millions of women from accessing an array of services beyond abortion, from affordable contraception to regular cancer screenings. And as we mentioned earlier, Trump has also prioritized repealing or gutting the Affordable Care Act, which opened up access to birth control and prenatal care for millions.

With Trump’s vow to appoint “pro-life” Supreme Court candidates, it’s not looking good for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that has been protecting women’s reproductive rights since 1973, according to Sarah Ghiorse, program director for the New Mexico Women’s Organization, an arm of the New Mexico Community Foundation.

“We have to take a step back and recognize the message the Trump administration is conveying on how the United States of America values women and girls,” she says.

Cutting services for women could have consequences for the state’s already abysmal numbers. New Mexico’s overall child well-being ranks 49th in the country, according to the Annie E Casey Foundation. Forty-five percent of single mothers in the state live in poverty and have no access to healthcare.

Ghiorse wants to assure women who fear their services could be hampered that they are not alone. The New Mexico Women’s Organization is establishing “connection circles”—groups for advocacy and support—next year for the community to come together and discuss politics in a safe zone. (KJ)

Environment

Trump’s pro-business, anti-regulation approach spills into the environment department to foster the undoing of policies that promise to reduce carbon emissions, curtail the effects of climate change and preserve our land, air and water quality for future generations.

“We’ll be fine with the environment,” Trump insisted, speaking on Fox News in 2015, “but you can’t destroy business.”

His cabinet appointees, multiple climate change deniers among them, give some sense of the lay of the land here. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is tapped to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has repeatedly sued the EPA to block implementation of new regulations. Trump picked former Texas governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy, the very same department he said he’d abolish when he ran for president in 2012.

“Putting Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA is like putting Darth Vader in charge of the Rebel Alliance,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. The Sierra Club has been mobilizing its members to call their senators to express their opposition to these appointees.

The pro-oil bastion—right down to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State—means we’re unlikely to see an end to the federal oil and gas leasing program. WildEarth Guardians is similarly unlikely to back down from their ongoing campaign to stop issuing those leases.

Efforts to curtail climate change-causing emissions like the Clean Power Plan and the rule on methane emissions from oil wells recently finalized by the US Bureau of Land Management have already been challenged in court. If upheld, congressional legislation could block those rules, or the EPA could extend leniency in enforcing them.

If there’s hope, it’s that some of these measures are expected to boost the economy, and Perry isn’t unfamiliar with that. Under his leadership, Texas increased its renewable energy standard and funding to research and develop wind energy.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that just in New Mexico, the Clean Power Plan could spark more than $2.7 billion in capital investments. (Elizabeth Miller)

Public lands

When the Republican National Committee put forward the sale of federally owned public lands as part of their platform for 2016, the issue prompted Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) to resign as a delegate for the national convention.

He has, however, voted for a bill that mapped out what some legal analysts saw as a pilot program for moving federal lands management to states. Economic analyses of state ownership caution that the move would saddle states with expenses they can’t afford, prompting the auction of those lands to the highest bidder—likely oil, gas and other natural resource-based industries.

The matrix presents a befuddling future for our public lands with Zinke tapped for Secretary of the Interior, charged with overseeing them as well as their minerals and endangered species.

In New Mexico, more state management would likely see more access for extractive industries, our public land commissioner Aubrey Dunn having recently spoken to the American Legislative Exchange Council about his work to secure 6 million more acres at no cost to the state.

Expect ongoing legal challenges to federal leasing programs from the likes of the Western Environmental Law Center, the executive director of which called Zinke a “dirty energy advocate through and through.” (EM)



 

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