AP NEWS

Governor seeks reimbursement from US for migrant aid

May 21, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Financial and logistical support for border communities coping with an influx of asylum-seeking migrants are on the agenda as the governor of New Mexico travels Tuesday to Washington to meet with federal officials.

The two-day visit announced by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham includes a meeting with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor.

Lujan Grisham will advocate for federal reimbursements to communities as they provide humanitarian relief to migrant families.

On Tuesday, she also announced that the state will offer grants to reimburse local government agencies that provide humanitarian aid to migrants. State lawmakers recently set aside $2.5 million for border security. The governor’s office declined to specify how much money is available.

“It is our duty as a state, in the absence of a comprehensive shift in strategy and personnel deployment on the part of the federal government, to accommodate and facilitate the needs of both these asylum seekers and the local communities where they are being released,” Lujan Grisham said in a letter to Republican state lawmakers, who have criticized her approach to immigration pressures.

Democrat-led cities including Las Cruces and Albuquerque have embraced humanitarian relief efforts, while the Sierra County Commission approved a resolution Tuesday that opposes the relocation of migrants within county boundaries, citing the area’s own impoverished circumstances and the potential for migrants to get stranded in towns that don’t have bus, rail or commercial flight service.

Stelnicki said Lujan Grisham also wants to discuss with U.S. officials the withdrawal of the U.S. Border Patrol from interior checkpoints in southern New Mexico. The closures have riled residents, prompting an emergency declaration by Otero County commissioners urging the state to intervene.

Communities in the south of the state are “taking on a lot of the cost of a federal problem, stepping into the breach,” Stelnicki said.

Lujan Grisham previously challenged President Trump’s description of a security crisis on the border as she withdrew all but a dozen national guardsmen who continue to address humanitarian needs in a remote corridor along the border.

Her administration has deployed State Police to an abandoned immigration checkpoint and a remote stretch of the border where local police are stretched thin, while marshaling state emergency management personnel to provide logistical support and shore up emergency radio communication systems.

Las Cruces, where more than 6,000 migrants have been dropped off by Border Patrol since April 12, has approved $575,000 in spending on aid for migrants from a hospital trust account.

The city and faith-based groups are providing temporary shelter, clothing, food and sanitary supplies to asylum seekers, who typically stay for one or two nights before departing to join family and other sponsors throughout the U.S.

As Las Cruces struggles to keep up, migrants have been dropped in the smaller community of Deming and bused -- in one instance -- to Denver.

On Monday, a dozen Republican legislators urged Lujan Grisham to reverse course and deploy more National Guard troops to the border. The governor says troops are a costly, inappropriate option.

The first-year Democratic governor also is seeking a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding his oversight of nuclear waste storage facilities and federal weapons laboratories in New Mexico.

A meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services officials was being sought regarding resources for medical attention for migrants.

The governor’s trip includes partisan fundraising activities and will be paid for with campaign dollars, Stelnicki said.