At a special Otero County Commission meeting Thursday, the commission approved of a resolution two-to-one that opposes housing immigrants in Otero County and the use of local government resources to do so.
Otero County Commissioner Lori Bies abstained from the vote.
“I’d like to first start off by saying that our county wants to help people,” Otero County Commission Chairman Couy Griffin said.
“We want to help the constituents that have entrusted us to serve them, to be good stewards of the tax dollars that have been entrusted to the county and I feel, in my opinion, that to be a good steward of those tax dollars, would be to focus on our infrastructure and our own residents. ‘Cause we have a great need inside of our own county.”
So far the county has not been asked to house any immigrants, Griffin said.
Otero County Commissioner Gerald Matherly agreed with Griffin saying that he’s “all for if someone wants to come across our border, do it legally.”
Bies had some misgivings about the resolution and funding any asylum-seeker housing and care.
“The situation is what it is as described, however, we’ve already put a resolution forth that said we weren’t going to allocate any money to the situation,” Bies said.
When public comment was opened, most of the speakers were against the resolution including Alamogordo City Commissioner Nadia Sikes, who brought a sign with her that said “We are better than this” on one side and “NO to this Resolution” on the other side. Sikes said that she was there “as an aggravated taxpayer.”
“You as commissioner are going to be talking today about your budget,” Sikes said. “You are the people who decide how the money from our taxpayers is going to be spent. You have the ability to not provide funding to house immigrants and asylum seekers. You can do that. Why do you have to grandstand? … No one has asked you yet to provide any funding for the asylum seekers or the immigrants.”
Madeline Lee was the only person who spoke during public comment who favored the resolution. Many of the other speakers spoke about the negative sides of the resolution and how it makes Otero County look “heartless.”
The resolution had other local governments included and Griffin wanted that phrase removed, saying that he did not want to legislate over other governments.
However, Griffin encouraged the other municipalities within Otero County to take similar measures.
“The Board of County Commissioners of Otero County declares its opposition to the United States Border Patrol and other federal agencies dropping off immigrants in Otero County instead of housing them in federal facilities,” the resolution states. “(The commission) declares its opposition to the use of funds, staff, facilities and other resources of Otero County to sustain immigrants as this should be done by the United States Customs and Border Patrol and other federal agencies.”
The resolution cites the Feb.15 National Emergency Declaration about the immigration crisis at the southern border and other issues such as the immigrants being placed in public facilities in Las Cruces.
“Otero County has a limited tax base, struggles to meet the needs of its current residents, lacks facilities to house immigrants and cannot meet the needs of an influx of immigrants,” the resolution states.
The resolution was sent to President Donald Trump, New Mexico U.S. Senators and Representatives, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, CBP El Paso Sector agent-in-charge, the Alamogordo CBP station agent-in-charge, Alamogordo Mayor Richard Boss, Tularosa Mayor Margaret Trujillo and Cloudcroft Mayor Dave Venable.
Otero County declared a state of emergency April 17 where the county called on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to redeploy the National Guard to reopen the CBP checkpoints that were closed in March.
Nicole Maxwell can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 575-415-6605 or on twitter at @nicmaxreporter