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More asylum-seekers expected to pass through Albuquerque


Archbishop John Wester, left, talks to the media about asylum seekers coming to Albuquerque on their way to other parts of the country. James Gannon, the CEO of Catholic Charities, center, and Mayor Tim Keller also spoke at the news conference. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As a city on an interstate crossroads, less than a day’s drive from the southern border, Albuquerque can expect to see even more asylum-seekers bused in as shelters, charities and churches in El Paso run out of room to house them, said Mayor Tim Keller in a noon news conference held with the CEO of Catholic Charities, Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and a representative from Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s office.

“This is happening all across the country and we are expecting hundreds more to come,” Keller said. “We get very short-term notice as a city and as organizations. There is no answer about when or exactly how many are coming.”

About 300 men, women and children seeking asylum in the United States were brought to Albuquerque from El Paso over the weekend. They were put up in hotels throughout the city before taking buses or planes to meet up with their sponsors, oftentimes relatives, around the country.

The asylum-seekers had all been processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the adults were wearing ankle monitors.

By Wednesday night, most had already moved on and the city said only 16 people – seven families – remained in Albuquerque.

“These asylum-seekers are not staying here permanently; they are usually here for a few days and then they are going on to the next stop,” Keller said.

Keller said that since the news broke about the migrants arriving in Albuquerque, the city has gotten hundreds of calls, emails and questions from people wanting to help.

The effort is funded by donations and volunteers, not city or taxpayer money.

Keller said it’s preferable for the asylum-seekers to stay at hotels, but if too many arrive or if funding dries up, the city will consider setting up shelters.

Catholic Charities, other religious and secular groups, and service providers have been organizing volunteers and collecting donations to help feed and clothe the asylum-seekers for the remainder of their journey. The University of New Mexico Hospital staff also went to the hotels to treat them for the flu, colds or other ailments.

“From our tradition, especially with our faith and our testaments, the Old Testament the New Testament, we see constantly God cares for the poor. He cares for the vulnerable, God cares for those who are in need,” Archbishop Wester said. “So when Bishop (Mark) Seitz from El Paso called me almost a month ago now and said, ‘Can you help?’, of course we said ‘yes.’ ”