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Keller condemns immigration policy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s role in the national reunification effort of immigrant parents and their children got national coverage Wednesday night when Mayor Tim Keller appeared on CBSN, the 24/7 streaming news service of CBS News based in New York.

Mayor Tim Keller

Keller provided the latest information available about the local community response to the reunification efforts and had some harsh words about the federal government’s role.

He also was asked about a visit he and his wife made to a refugee shelter in El Paso last month.

“This issue is very important to our community, and we carried really the heartache and the anger that a lot of folks felt as those children were pulled apart from their parents,” he said. “And for us, we have deep multicultural roots in Albuquerque, we’re also very strong in terms of families and blended families, and we went down to stand and say, ‘This isn’t right.’ ”

Keller said he was at the shelter earlier this month with 40 other mayors to view the conditions of the El Paso detention facility, but all were denied access inside.

Keller also criticized the Trump administration policy of separation and detention.

“There really is no plan, and I’m just grateful that in our city we have an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and a community that’s willing to help these folks, because right now, the federal government really isn’t,” he said.

Dona Dalton, spokeswoman for Lutheran Family Services, Rocky Mountains, said that as of Thursday, 57 immigrant refugees, children and adults who had been reunified at the Otero County detention facility were provided services in Albuquerque.

All were in the care of Lutheran Family Services for 24 to 32 hours before being taken to the Albuquerque International Sunport to travel to their final destinations within the United States, Dalton said Thursday in an email to the Journal.

The relief organization was contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last Friday and asked to set up an emergency transitional services center in Albuquerque to accommodate up to 300 people.

Those services were in place by Saturday at noon, but the first group of 12 reunited immigrants didn’t arrive until about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Two other groups followed at 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. Wednesday, bringing the total to 57.

While in Albuquerque, the reunited family members were provided with temporary lodging and food, as well as backpacks containing clothing, toiletries, snacks, gift cards and other items – all donated by the Albuquerque community. In addition, medical professionals from the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center offered medical and behavioral screenings.