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Funds for migrants opposed in Lincoln County

RUIDOSO – Lincoln County commissioners have passed a resolution opposing the use of county money to transport or house migrants in the county.

Commission Chairman Preston Stone asked that the resolution, originally passed in April, be presented to the commission again at the May meeting, which was held Tuesday.

“The reason I asked the county manager to place this on the agenda again is that I have had numerous calls in support of the resolution,” Stone said.

Commissioner Tom Stewart was absent at the board’s April meeting, and commissioners tied on a motion for approval of that resolution and on a subsequent motion to table the issue.

Commissioner Elaine Allen reminded commissioners that resolutions do not carry the weight of law. “They are just statements,” Allen said.

Allen, who voted against passage previously, offered a motion for approval with a change in wording in two places to say the commission opposes migrants being brought to the county at county taxpayers’ expense and opposes illegal immigration into the county and any mandate that requires local financial support.

“This is not against the immigrants. Those people are seeking better lives for themselves,” Stewart said after seconding Allen’s motion. “It is not their fault we’ve got a screwed-up federal government, but we’ve got to get some control here. Deming declared a state of emergency. Las Cruces is spending $300,000, and the state of New Mexico is shipping people off to Colorado. It’s a real mess, and the federal government ought to step up and get with it.”

But he had reservations about the second paragraph of the resolution, which said counties have the “powers necessary to improve the morals, order, comfort and convenience of the county and for its inhabitants, including the safety of county facilities. …”

“I don’t know how the county can improve the morals of the citizens. I think that should be morale,” he said, and the county manager and other commissioners agreed.

Humanitarian effort needs to occur, but commissioners also must consider those needs in their own county, Commissioner Dallas Draper said.

The commission is limited in what actions it can take, he said.

“This is the one we can do right now,” Draper said. “We don’t just vote and raise our hands, wash them off, have lunch and move on. We deal with this every day and are looking for other options to take care of the citizens of our county.”

Last month, commissioners said Camp Sierra Blanca, an unused state facility in the county, might be pressed into service to house immigrants. The resolution says regular housing is inadequate locally to accommodate immigrants.

Thom Cole, public information officer for the New Mexico General Services Department, told the Ruidoso News that the administration is not planning to house immigrants at the former Department of Corrections complex next to the Fort Stanton Historic Site north of Ruidoso.

The complex previously served as a juvenile offender rehabilitation center and for minimum security state prisoners.

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