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First group of immigrants on way to ABQ, relief agency says

Jim Barclay, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services, Rocky Mountains, and Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, brief the media Tuesday on the status of reunited immigrant families expected to pass through Albuquerque

Jim Barclay, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services, Rocky Mountains, and Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, brief the media Tuesday on the status of reunited immigrant families expected to pass through Albuquerque. The news conference at the John Marshall Health and Social Services Center in the South Broadway area, was held in a room overflowing with donated backpacks, clothing, food and stuffed animals for the transitioning immigrant families. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Twelve immigrants were expected in Albuquerque sometime Tuesday afternoon or evening, the first of about 300 people who are being reunited with their families after a period of separation and detention.

Jim Barclay, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services, Rocky Mountains, said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified the relief agency about the 12 reunited individuals around noon.

ICE, however, provided little additional information, including how many families the 12 individuals represent, how many were children, and when the other immigrants might arrive in Albuquerque.

Barclay said it was his understanding the adults coming to Albuquerque had been held in the detention facility in Otero County that was under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. Children, who were being held in different facilities under the control of the Department of Health and Human Services, were brought to the facility in Otero County, where the families were reunited before being transferred by ICE to Albuquerque.

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Dr. Mauricio Tohen, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said reunited immigrant families will be screened for possible medical and behavioral health issues. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

The adults, all of whom will be wearing ankle monitoring bracelets as their cases proceed through the court system, will stay briefly in Albuquerque. While here, medical professionals will provide pro bono examinations. “Our goal is to screen the medical and behavioral care needs of this population and intervene as appropriate,” said Dr. Mauricio Tohen, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Lutheran Family Services, working with its partners, will then provide transportation to the locations that the immigrants intended to go when they were detained at the border while seeking amnesty.

While the reunification deadline set by a federal judge is Thursday, Lutheran Family Services is prepared to accommodate the immigrants into the weekend and beyond if required, Barclay said.

“We’re there for the long haul,” he said. “We will run this program until they (ICE) tell us we’re done.”

It was only on Friday that Lutheran Family Services was contacted by ICE and asked to set up an emergency transitional services center in Albuquerque. “We scrambled and were ready to go at noon on Saturday,” he said, but the families that were supposed to arrive have not yet appeared.

In the meantime, LFS sent out word via social media to all their donors that resources were needed for the transferring immigrants. So far, more than 700 individual gifts valued at more than $90,000 have been donated online. Another $60,000 in checks and in-kind gifts, such as phone and gift cards, was also collected.

Michelle Melendez, director of the Albuquerque Office of Equity and Inclusion, coordinated efforts at a local fire station used as a drop-off point for donated items, which included backpacks, clothing, food, stuffed animals, water and gift cards.

The outpouring of generosity was so great that people are now being urged to hold off on any more donations, with the exception of gift cards that LFS can hand out to the families in transition. Items that the immigrant families cannot take with them will be donated to needy Albuquerque residents, Melendez said.

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