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Deming declares state of emergency over migrants

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Deming has declared a state of emergency as the city and Luna County cope with an influx of migrant families being released there by the Border Patrol.

“We’re getting about 150 a day,” said Chris Brice, assistant county manger. The Border Patrol sent the first group to Deming over the weekend.

By Monday, in a unanimous vote, the City Council approved the state of emergency declaration.

“This shouldn’t be our problem, but it is,” said Deming City Administrator Aaron Sera during the council meeting.

Border Patrol and ICE have been overwhelmed by a surge in migrant parents and kids arriving at the border daily seeking asylum.

“I think on Saturday we hit, just in apprehensions, 1,800,” said Ramiro Cordero, a spokesman with the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which includes all of southern New Mexico.

“We can’t house 1,800,” Cordero said. “So we have to pull the relief valve.”

Deming is the latest city affected as Border Patrol processes and releases families in various towns in New Mexico and Texas.

Deming and Luna County officials are coordinating the migrant relief effort with the help of volunteers, and donated food, water and clothing. The city-owned airport hangar has been turned into an intake area where the Deming Fire Department is doing medical screenings. The Southwestern New Mexico Fairgrounds has been turned into a makeshift shelter for migrant families, most with young children.

Volunteers and nonprofit organizations help the migrants make travel arrangements to join relatives or sponsors in other cities.

“Luna County has really stepped up and helped a lot. That’s for sure,” Brice said. But he said some local residents are angry about the county providing assistance for the migrants.

“The citizens who are angry about it certainly wouldn’t want 100 people walking around the streets with nowhere to go,” Brice said.

Deming is getting some advice from Las Cruces, which has received more than 5,000 migrants since April 12.

Officials with the Doña Ana County/Las Cruces Office of Emergency Management are in contact with Deming.

“We are sharing information on how we are handling the situation,” spokesman Udell Vigil said.

The Las Cruces City Council has approved $575,000 to help coordinate the humanitarian effort.

New Mexico’s delegation in Washington, including Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Xochitl Torres Small and Deb Haaland, sent a letter Tuesday to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking for reimbursement for state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations providing humanitarian relief for migrant families.

“New Mexico and its communities are facing new and unbudgeted costs caring for asylum-seeking migrants, as federal agencies have not provided for their sufficient shelter and humanitarian needs. These costs are expected to continue,” the New Mexico delegation wrote.

Just last week, Albuquerque’s City Council approved spending $250,000 to aid asylum-seekers, as hundreds are being bused from southern New Mexico to the Duke City. And Expo New Mexico, home of the State Fair, announced that it is opening its dormitories to temporarily house them.

Churches and charity groups have been providing shelter, food, clothing and support for the families while they make plans to join their sponsors elsewhere in the country.

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