New federal policies offer some immigrant children protection from deportation and an easier path to legal residency. However, full details on the extent of that protection have yet to be released. And many young immigrants will continue to face the dual challenges of coping with traumatic experiences in their home countries or along their journeys, while planning for their uncertain futures in the U.S.
Homeless youth in New Mexico, especially those under 18, face unique barriers to housing and services. “Even if there are kids just running away, there’s a reason they’re running away,” said Maya Fern, 22, a youth outreach coordinator for the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. Fern lived on the streets from 14 to 18 after fleeing abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.
New Mexico consistently ranks toward the bottom among states for child welfare. In an under-resourced state with an overburdened system, a tight-knit group of nonprofit service providers have had to get creative to fill the gaps.
Substance abuse is one of the largest co-occurring factors in youth homelessness. Yet, New Mexico lacks treatment facilities to help housing insecure youth struggling with addiction. Serenity Mesa in Albuquerque, one of the only programs in the state that serves unhoused young people, takes an unconventional approach to help their clients cope not only with addiction, but the underlying causes of it.
LGBTQ+ youth experience homelessness at significantly higher rates than their peers. In Albuquerque, New Mexico's only shelter specifically for queer young people provides a safe space for this vulnerable and exploited population to thrive.
Over the past nine years, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards that emphasize “human impacts” on the environment for middle schoolers and the impact of “human activity” on climate change for high schoolers. But many teachers have little or no formal training about climate change, much less about how to teach it, and what students learn about it can vary widely from state to state and even from classroom to classroom.
New Mexico recently became one of nearly 30 states to offer some form of “tuition-free” college. Studies suggest this could lead to a jump in enrollment, particularly among Black, Hispanic and female students. Experts, administrators and students say additional services and support, such as student emergency assistance funds, are likely to become even more important.
Thomas Wescott, 24, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said he has been rejected by multiple employers due to a six-year-old conviction for marijuana possession. Today, he works at Sol Cannabis, the first cannabis consumption lounge in the state, which recently legalized recreational marijuana. Wescott and others like him are poised to benefit from a law that went into effect last year mandating automatic expungement of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.