Lujan Grisham goes to D.C. to discuss border

An asylum seeker holds a palm cross in April as Father Charles McCarthy leads a Palm Sunday Mass in the lobby of an Albuquerque hotel where a group of immigrants are staying after being released from ICE custody. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)
An asylum-seeker holds a palm cross in April as Father Charles McCarthy leads a Palm Sunday Mass in the lobby of an Albuquerque hotel where a group of immigrants are staying after being released from ICE custody. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is headed to Washington, D.C., this week to push the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for better communication and federal reimbursement as New Mexico deals with an influx of families seeking asylum.

She has a meeting scheduled with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and will meet with other federal officials.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and former congresswoman, has already spoken with McAleenan by telephone but will use the in-person meeting to relay local concerns about the border, a spokesman said.

Charities, churches and other groups in New Mexico are coping with the release of thousands of migrants seeking asylum. Some local governments have set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars to help cover the cost of humanitarian aid, and Deming and Otero County have declared a state of emergency.

Lujan Grisham this week will seek federal reimbursement for the humanitarian assistance, more federal staffing and resources, and better communication about when and where migrants are being dropped off, spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said. The governor will also raise local concerns about the closure of Border Patrol highway checkpoints, he said.

“There are just a lot of things that could be done better,” Stelnicki said.

Ruben Garcia, director of the nonprofit Annunciation House, said last week 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.”

A dozen Republican lawmakers in the state House, meanwhile, are urging Lujan Grisham to send more National Guard troops to the border and to create a state-led crisis response team.

“Some of New Mexico’s poorest communities are being forced to provide shelter and other services at a time when these communities can least afford to accommodate the various needs of the immigrant population,” the legislators said in a letter to the governor.

Lujan Grisham, in turn, told the lawmakers that a “military response to a humanitarian matter” wouldn’t be a good use of state resources. But she said her administration – including the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management – is working to provide logistical support and coordinate with volunteers.

Lujan Grisham’s predecessor, Republican Susana Martinez, deployed troops to the border in 2018, but Lujan Grisham decided to pull most of them back this year.

Lujan Grisham’s campaign is covering the cost of her trip to Washington, D.C. Her visit will include a speech during the Ideas Conference of the Center for American Progress event and participation in a fundraising event with the Democratic Governors Association.

She also expects to meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other federal officials.

The governor was scheduled to leave Tuesday and return late Thursday.

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