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NM transports 55 asylum-seekers to Denver

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico helped charter a bus this week to send 55 asylum-seekers to Denver after shelters in Las Cruces filled to capacity, officials say.

The arrangement cost about $4,000 and came about after a nonprofit group operating in the El Paso area, Annunciation House, reached agreement with three churches in Denver, a spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

The migrants left Las Cruces by bus Sunday and stopped in Santa Fe – where volunteers provided food and water, and emergency medical technicians offered a quick checkup, Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said Wednesday.

“These are beleaguered women and children,” he said.

The Denver Post this week reported that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office didn’t have advance notice about the transfer of immigrants, but that he supports providing humanitarian assistance to asylum-seekers.

The group traveled to Denver rather than stay in New Mexico, Stelnicki said, because that’s the location of the groups that agreed to provide shelter.

It’s expected to be only a temporary stay for the migrants because they will head to locations throughout the country to meet with sponsors, he said.

Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House, said in a written message to volunteers Sunday that U.S. immigration authorities regularly release more than 1,000 refugees a day in El Paso and Las Cruces – “a number that has become almost overwhelming.”

Busing refugees to accepting church communities in Denver and Dallas, he said, would be a critical way to help relieve the burden on Las Cruces and El Paso.

“Kudos to the office of the Governor of New Mexico for helping to make possible this first bus transfer and helping to lead the way for what will hopefully be many more such transfers of refugees,” Garcia said in the message.

Stelnicki said the state has no immediate plans to regularly provide buses to Denver but the situation is unpredictable.

State employees and volunteers, he said, are working hard to help communities in southern New Mexico handle the influx of migrants.

Expo New Mexico is offering temporary housing to asylum-seeking migrants at dormitories on its grounds in Southeast Albuquerque, though none had stayed there as of earlier this week.

Thousands of asylum-seekers nonetheless have already come through Albuquerque, where faith-based and community groups have helped them make travel arrangements to meet sponsors elsewhere in the country. They typically stay in the city only two or three days.

Albuquerque city councilors approved $250,000 earlier this month to help, and Bernalillo County plans to make $100,000 available.

People interested in helping the asylum-seekers, Stelnicki said, can make a donation to the Santa Fe Community Foundation to help with transportation or other costs.

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