News briefs from the Front Range

Raid targets San Luis Valley

Federal immigration police raided a potato processing plant in the San Luis Valley on Tuesday morning, according to Colorado immigrants rights groups. Nineteen people, who may or may not be undocumented, were apprehended, including eight women and 11 men (one of them underage). The Worley & McCullough warehouse in Monte Vista, about three hours southwest of Colorado Springs, is the site of the valley's first immigration raid this year.

"They are going to make their presence known where they can," says Flora Archuleta, executive director of the San Luis Valley Immigrant Resource Center, speaking of the immigration police. "They hadn't been to the valley before."

The detainees stayed in Park County on Tuesday evening, believed to be en route to the state's main immigrant detention center in Aurora. Immigrants and their supporters held a vigil last night in support of the victims and their families. Advocates don't know how many children were affected.

The Monte Vista raid comes about four months after a major raid at a Swift meatpacking plant in Greeley, where 261 people were arrested. NZ

Army map to be overhauled

Officials at Fort Carson say they will refine a vague map showing the post could expand its southeastern Colorado training site into several small towns and national grasslands.

The current map shows a 1-million-acre circle surrounding the roughly 235,000-acre Pion Canyon Maneuver Site.

The Army seeks to buy some 418,000 acres of land but has declined to state exactly which properties it wants. The plan has riled environmentalists and ranchers and spawned a bill that gives the state a say in how eminent domain is used. The bill is expected to head to the desk of Gov. Bill Ritter this week.

Tom Warren, Fort Carson's director of environmental compliance and management, said at a Pueblo town meeting on Tuesday that post officials would meet later this week to discuss how to draft the new map.

He could not say when the map would be issued, noting that it would come only after a federal "notice of intent" is issued. The notice, a bureaucratic prelude to environmental impact studies, will come in mid- to late summer, he said.

Rising troop levels and changing training needs are driving the plan, says Lt. Col. David Johnson. MdY

ACLU takes on St. Pat's cases

An attorney who normally charges $500 an hour is expected to work for free to represent the seven marchers arrested at last month's St. Patrick's Day parade.

Gregory Walta will meet with the so-called St. Patrick's Seven, whose cases could be combined for a single jury trial that highlights free-speech issues.

Colorado Springs police removed marchers from the parade after organizers objected to their anti-war signs. They face charges of failing to disperse, though last week the City Attorney's Office sought to change the charges to "obstructing passage or assembly." Both crimes carry a maximum $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

For their part, marchers allege police used excessive force.

Bill Durland, one of those facing charges, says he welcomes Walta's involvement, which comes on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Citing concern over the actions of police, Walta, who is a member of the Independent's board of directors, says he will scour video evidence approaching a May 7 court appearance. MdY

Colorado gets warm prickly

There was a mix of bad news and good news in a report on global warming issued by Environment Colorado, a group that collects data documenting the state's rising pollution problem.

While carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels rose 38 percent between 1990 and 2004, to 91.4 million metric tons, the push to increase renewable energy should help reverse the trend in the future.

Colorado's pollution grew faster than all but four other states, and now puts out more pollution than 175 other nations, the nonprofit said in a report.

Between 1990 and 2004, vehicle miles traveled in the state rose 69 percent. At the same time, vehicles became less efficient.

Environment Colorado said one positive was that voters passed Amendment 37, which sets renewable energy targets. Gov. Bill Ritter expanded those goals earlier this year. MdY

Springs Council sworn in

Colorado Springs' new and re-elected city councilors were sworn in at a schmaltzy ceremony at Pioneer Hall last Tuesday, which kicked off with a solo performance of "God Bless the USA." Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan gave the invocation, charging the Council to demonstrate a "dedication to people of all backgrounds," including "all races, religions and ethnic backgrounds."

Conspicuously absent was any mention of gays and lesbians. Last week, keeping with tradition, some councilors pooh-poohed the idea of backing a multicultural celebration that included homosexuals. But that didn't seem to faze the councilors present at the event.

Incumbent re-elects Tom Gallagher, Randy Purvis and Larry Small were rather stoic as they were sworn in. Only newcomer Jan Martin choked up when it was her turn, looking toward the audience to say "Thank you" before she sat down.

Mayor Lionel Rivera congratulated the Council on a short but robust election, one that brought up "topics that were important to discuss." After introducing several family members to the audience, he back-patted the city for attention to soldiers. Lastly, he said, "I'm proud of the way we've treated our community. It's an easy place to get around, east to west and north to south." NZ

Compiled by Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff.


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