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With Expo dorms occupied, 4-H program will relocate

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A youth horse program originally planned for Expo New Mexico will instead take place in Las Cruces, while Expo devotes its on-site dormitories to helping asylum-seeking migrants passing through Albuquerque.

New Mexico State University officials decided to move the 4-H Horse School, scheduled for June 3-6, to Las Cruces after Expo decided last week to allocate its dorm space to asylum-seekers being bused into Albuquerque by federal immigration authorities.

Expo has for years hosted the Horse School, and the program participants – mostly elementary school-age children – normally stay in those dorms.

NMSU and Expo representatives said the parties discussed alternative housing options on the fairgrounds, but the university – which oversees the state 4-H program – ultimately decided to move this year’s Horse School to its Las Cruces campus.

“Expo New Mexico did try to make additional accommodations for us, (but) it just wasn’t going to work out,” NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister said.

The 4-H officials notified the Horse School’s 94 registrants of the change in a May 6 letter.

“We appreciate Expo’s desire to assist these (migrant) families during their hardship,” 4-H program leader Steve Beck and 4-H agent Craig Painter said in the letter. “In an effort to assist, we have been working with NMSU Animal Science to come up with an alternative plan.”

The participants will stay in NMSU campus dormitories and keep their horses at the university’s Horse Farm/Equestrian Center.

Bannister said NMSU is “still trying to put the pieces together” to host the event but does not anticipate the change costing any money.

An Expo New Mexico spokesman said the 4-H Horse School would have paid Expo about $7,000 to use the facility. He said Expo had offered to establish a lodging facility – including portable showers – in other buildings on the fairgrounds as an alternative.

“We had sufficient accommodations for them, and they just decided this year the facility in Las Cruces would just better suit their needs,” Expo’s Wyndham Kemsley said.

He said no other planned Expo events have been relocated.

Expo New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller last Tuesday announced the plan to use the fairgrounds’ dorms for the asylum-seekers, though none have stayed there yet.

Federal immigration authorities have so far driven more than 2,200 migrants to the city, where faith-based and community groups host them for two to three days and help them make travel arrangements to meet sponsors elsewhere in the country. The Albuquerque organizations have relied on volunteer labor and private donations to temporarily shelter, feed and clothe the immigrants, though more public aid is now available.

In addition to the Expo dorms, the City Council this week approved spending $250,000 to support the effort.

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