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Bill would boost reimbursements for care of migrants

U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., has introduced a bill she believes will make it easier for communities to get reimbursed for the care of migrants on the border with Mexico.

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small

It includes more funding and extends the date that local governments, nonprofits and church groups can be reimbursed for providing humanitarian aid.

“I was just meeting with some of the communities, churches and nonprofits who responded to this challenge,” Torres Small said. “Some of the challenges were related to procedures. Families were being dropped off (by Border Patrol) with little notice to nonprofits, or they were being dropped off in places where there wasn’t infrastructure in place to provide them with temporary shelter or get them to a bus station or an airport to get them to where their immigration proceedings were going to take place.”

The Democrat, who represents the 2nd District, said the Southern Border Communities Relief Act would require communities be given eight hours notice before migrants are dropped off “and that they prioritize locations where there is infrastructure already set up.”

The Trump administration has tried to reduce the number of migrants coming across the border by refusing asylum to those who pass through countries where it is offered, such as Mexico.

But Torres Small said migrants were still being dropped off in communities along the border, although not as many as this spring, when communities such as Las Cruces and Deming were caring for hundreds of migrants a day.

The bill would authorize $60 million for the next three fiscal years to reimburse communities providing humanitarian assistance should they find themselves in a similar situation in the future. The bill also authorizes funds for the reimbursement of services provided beginning on July 1, 2019.

Current reimbursement funding is only eligible for services provided from Jan. 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019, forcing border communities to shoulder the bill for the humanitarian support they provided after June. That funding – $30 million – was provided through a $4.6 billion border aid package passed by Congress over the summer.

That would help an organization like Colores United, which started providing assistance at the Deming shelter at the former National Guard Armory in July. Colores United spokeswoman Ariana Saludares told the Journal the organization did not apply for reimbursement because of the June 30 cutoff.

Torres Small said she was also told by Deming City Administrator Aaron Sera that the paperwork wasn’t always consistent when migrants were dropped off.

“They left with notices to appear that didn’t always have the information to get transportation they needed or make sure they knew when their immigration hearing was going to be,” she said. “Another piece of the legislation would require consistent paperwork at the time of their release.”

Torres Small said there were many reporting requirements in the original aid package that local governments, nonprofits and church groups didn’t know they were going to have to comply with. She said challenges that arose after the first aid package was passed would be reviewed and would be addressed in future funding awards.

Another member of the New Mexico delegation – Rep. Ben Ray Luján – is also a sponsor of the legislation.

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