KRWG

Simon Thompson

Reporter/Producer

Simon Thompson is a reporter/producer for KRWG-TV's Newsmakers.  You can also hear his reports on KRWG-FM.  

Thompson is originally from Australia, where he graduated from Monash University with a B.A in Journalism and Politics.

After graduating, Thompson wrote features and worked as subeditor for a social culture magazine in his hometown of Melbourne.

Thompson came to the United States to travel and embark on a freelance career, sending articles to a string of publications in Australia. After realizing the gravity and extent of crucial issues begging to be covered, Thompson worked to extend his time in the U.S.

Thompson got his start in public media in Indiana at PBS/NPR stations WTIU/WFIU, shooting and producing in depth feature stories for TV and radio.

Thompson chose to come to the southwest during the polar vortex of 2013 – 2014 to report on life in the border region, master Spanish, and get as far away from any future polar vortex as possible.

As an Expat living in the U.S., Thompson has a natural inclination towards immigration issues and has focused his reporting on drug policy, education, and socioeconomic challenges in the region.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimoThom  for story updates and news, or send him story ideas at simothom@nmsu.edu
 

KRWG/Simon Thompson

The Democratic party has had a stronghold on state and local politics in El Paso, TX for more than a decade. But the El Paso County Republicans are working to reach the region's voters.

There were more than 100 people at the El Paso County Republican debate watch party.  The atmosphere was fun and festive, it felt less like a political gathering and more like a county fair.

KRWG/Simon Thompson

According to a 2016 Harvard Business school report approximately 24 percent of all business owners are immigrants. Yet they only make up 15% of the population. A regional effort is working to attract and grow foreign entrepreneurial talent and strengthen bi-national partnerships.

aecf.org

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72uykm4pD04&feature=youtu.be

What does the U.S. have in common with Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua New Guinea? The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that these are the only countries in the world that don’t have paid family or maternity leave. But there is a push to expand access to paid family leave time in New Mexico.

Daubney Harper Boland is a new Mom, she gave birth to her daughter three months ago and took off work to bond and care with her newborn.

Simon Thompson

2013 New Mexico and Texas Departments of Health data shows one quarter of Dona Ana County residents needing hospitalization are going to Texas to get those services.  But a lower Medicaid reimbursement rate in New Mexico means many Texas doctors aren’t accepting them anymore.

David Tafoya is 5 years old. His father Joshua said since his son was 18 months old he has suffered from a severe case of epilepsy.

Despite international popularity in the U.S. the century old game of rugby has largely been overshadowed by other contact sports like American football, soccer and lacrosse. This summer marks the first time since 1924 the game will be played in the Olympics. 

Simon Thompson

Midwestern manufacturing has suffered in recent years companies are moving out, taking jobs with them, unions have been weakened and wages have been stagnant. Some blame all these problems on free trade deals.  NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, allows U.S. companies to move to Mexico and manufacture products for the U.S. market using cheaper labor .

Past and pending deals have been linked to the decline of the middle class and US manufacturing as well as the loss of U.S. jobs. But for border communities these agreements have actually boosted the economy.

 

The Deming Public Schools has been educating students crossing the border from Mexico for more than 60 years. Simon Thompson takes a look at the unique set of challenges the district faces in continuing this education legacy. 
 

Gallup poll data shows Americans consider “Immigration/Illegal aliens” the second-most important non-economic problem facing the country today.

How is this focus on the border and anti-immigrant sentiment that is becoming pervasive in national politics impacting local border communities like El Paso, Texas?

Simon Thompson

 

The deportation of a parent creates a gut wrenching dilemma:  Should the family separate?  But a New Mexico school five miles north of the border is allowing families to stay together while still providing the benefits of a U.S. education.

It is 5th grade graduation at Columbus Elementary School in New Mexico.

Recently naturalized resident Barbara Aguilera fills out a voter registration form.
Simon Thompson / KRWG

Donald Trump’s candidacy has been controversial. it’s even prompting some to apply for citizenship. And those new citizens are anxious to vote in November.

About 9 million U.S. residents are eligible to become U.S. citizens.  According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more of them have been going through with the naturalization process.
 
Barbara Aguilera was one of more than 100 at a recent naturalization ceremony at the Las Cruces convention center.

“I am just very excited.” Aguilera said

Joe Widmer

Alamogordo is home to largest community of German expatriates in the U.S. most of them serving in the German Air Force at Holloman Air Force base. Alamogordo is also home to the largest public German school outside Germany. 

Simon Thompson

This year’s New Mexico legislative session saw a lot of bills affecting workers and unions. Like the right to work, which would have allowed employees to get the benefits of union-negotiated contracts without having to pay union dues. Pre-emption laws, legislation that would stop cities and counties from enacting local labor laws, like raising the minimum wage. But none of it passed.

New Mexico Federation of Labor President John Henry is driving a bus across New Mexico to express appreciation for lawmakers who pushed back against these proposals.

One of the world’s best-known reporters covering drug cartel violence recently visited our region to discuss the state of the war on drugs.

Ioan Grillo is a freelance reporter with bylines in the New York Times, Reuters, and CNN as well as two books on the drug trade in Latin America. In covering the issue throughout El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico Grillo has documented distinct similarities that allow organized crime to flourish:  A lack of civil society and marginal infrastructure and opportunity.

Courtesy: GAFTC Holloman

For more than 20 years, a U-S Air Force Base in New Mexico has been home to Germany’s largest military installation on foreign soil. The German Air Force Flight Training Center has meant millions of dollars to the U-S government, and to the community of Alamogordo.

But now the Germans are about to pack up and leave.

Santa Teresa and the Union Pacific inter modal facility have been hailed as an economic boon to southern New Mexico. But the future supply of water poses a major obstacle to sustainable economic development in the area.
 
In 2014, New Mexico ranked number one in the nation for the growth in exports to Mexico. The majority of that growth can be attributed Santa Teresa and the $400 million dollar Union Pacific inter modal hub.

But this bright spot in the New Mexico economy is threatened by a lack of usable water.

Simon Thompson

There are only 1411 liquor licenses in New Mexico and the limited supply means selling liquor can be financially impossible for small businesses.

New Mexico licenses can sell for anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million. Compare that to Colorado where liquor licenses are about $2500.00.

With a big farmers market, the Rio Grande theatre and a soon to be completed plaza, Las Cruces is trying to revitalize its downtown.  Main Street Bistro owner manager Nick Ray said business is looking good.  But even when the plaza is completed Ray said there may still be something missing.

Lobbyists and their clients provided about $750,000 in campaign contributions to New Mexico lawmakers, Gov. Susana Martinez and others in months leading up to this year's legislative session.

The contributions are in addition to nearly $90,000 spent by lobbyists since last spring for food, drinks, gifts and entertainment for lawmakers and other state officials.

The disclosures filed last week with the secretary of state's office cover contributions and spending from May through Jan. 15.

Simon Thompson

A recent study by the Urban Institute found cities reap significant economic benefits when eligible residents become naturalized US citizens.  But each year, only 10% of those eligible do so.

108 about to be US citizens from all over the world gathered at the Las Cruces convention center taking an oath of loyalty as part of a ceremony to become a US citizen.

Raksmey Chan came to the US from Cambodia 3 years ago to live with her husband and son in Artesia, New Mexico.

“It is great! I am happy to be one of the people, to be an American citizen.” Chan said. 

Our Water Future

Dec 31, 2015
KRWG
Simon Thompson

Homelessness is a devastating experience for families.  It affects the physical and emotional health of family members and interferes with virtually every aspect of childhood, including the magic of Christmas.

Christmas may have came early for the kids at the La Posada women’s shelter in El Paso.

Office of the Governor

FORT STANTON, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has dedicated the new $5.7 million Veterans Cemetery in Fort Stanton that's expected to be completed in 2017.

The cemetery is the first of four proposed by Martinez for veterans who live in rural areas throughout the state.

The federal grant to establish the cemetery in Fort Stanton followed the $600,000 in initial funding the governor secured in the 2014 capital outplay bill.

The money will be used to plan, design and construct the Fort Stanton Veterans Cemetery and others in Angel Fire, Carlsbad and Gallup.

Simon Thompson

Spirits were high at Mayor Ken Miyagiashima's election party at restaurant Los Compas in Las Cruces.  

Incumbent Miyagishima  celebrated beating out challengers Miguel Silva and Eugenia Montoya Ortega with his supporters. According to unofficial city counts, Miyagishima received 51% of the vote.

Miyagishima says he plans to use his third term as mayor to continue economic development and infrastructure projects in the city.

The Las Cruces municipal election marked a shift in the Las Cruces political climate . Significant amounts of money were spent by groups from outside the city.

It took the form of persistent robo calls and hard hitting mailers attacking candidates. Most of it was aimed at discrediting Mayor Ken Miyagishima who won re-election.

“I am glad that the residents believed in me and didn’t believe all that information that was being floated out there” Miyagishima said.

Miyagishima says they were the most aggressive attacks he has seen in any recent Las Cruces election.

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

It has become a staple of the New Mexico news cycle; companies creating new jobs using state economic development incentives. But how often do you hear about these same companies going out of business? According to Gallup more than 50% of new companies in the U.S. close within 5 years. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed an attempt by the legislature to bring accountability to state incentive programs.

Courtesy: MVEDA

In economically depressed New Mexico, job creation is a top priority for voters and politicians alike. To address the issue, the Martinez administration has increasingly used incentive programs. But studies from Ohio State University, Washington University and other institutions show incentives have little to no effect on long term job creation and are routinely given to companies that would have expanded in the area anyway.

Global Trade Magazine

The city of Las Cruces has announced it’s been named among the best cities for global trade by a national magazine. 

Las Cruces received the ranking by Global Trade magazine following a 210 percent boost in regional export growth last year .  The designation also cited investments in the city from foreign and out of state companies.

Las Cruces economic development coordinator Gary Camarano says though Las Cruces has long held a geographical edge when it comes to international trade it is only just beginning to be recognized. 

Joe Widmer (KRWG)

The presidential election has put the focus on the US-Mexico border security and curbing illegal immigration.

As Simon Thompson reports that has some concerned what this political posturing is going to mean for the quality of life in border communities.

In the Unites States Of America the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from random and arbitrary stops and searches.

University of Kentucky

There are as many as 25,000 uses for hemp: Super foods, clothing and cosmetics-
According to industry studies.. Hemp retail products generate as much as $500 million dollars in the US every year. For New Mexico the low water use crop is a chance to maximize profit from scarce water supplies. But hemp’s ill-founded association with marijuana may have derailed New Mexico farmers’ hopes of capitalizing on the emerging hemp market.

Ramon Alvarez worked alongside his father on the family's farm in La Union New Mexico during the brutal drought of the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Michael Vadon

Some political analysts say to win the 2016 Presidential election Republicans must do a better job reaching Latinos, millennials and women. Some New Mexico Republicans are worried about another challenge, they’re concerned Donald Trump’s candidacy is compromising the party’s appeal.

Let’s quantify the challenge the Republican party is facing in the upcoming election. According to 2015 Pew Research Center data.

51% of millennials lean Democratic just 35% support Republicans.

When it comes to women: 52% Democratic to 36% Republican.

Simon Thompson

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality New Mexico teachers are among the most poorly paid in the nation.  Starting pay in the Las Cruces district is already ten thousand dollars less than the El Paso Independent Schools.  But it appears pay in Las Cruces will be cut even further due to a budget crisis.

The budget shortfall this year in Las Cruces Public Schools was 7.6 million dollars.  To deal with the crisis the district instituted a hiring freeze, cut the number of assistant principals and even reduced the number of bus stops.  

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