2019 suit over migrant release policy dismissed - Albuquerque Journal

2019 suit over migrant release policy dismissed

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Border Patrol vans drop off migrants at Meerscheidt Recreation Center in Las Cruces last April. (Blake Gumprecht/Las Cruces Sun-News)

A federal district judge has dismissed a case filed last year by the state of New Mexico and city of Albuquerque over the federal government’s decision to release asylum-seekers, with no assistance, into border communities.

The state and city teamed up in June 2019 to sue several federal officials over the “sudden and unlawful abandonment of its long-standing Safe Release policy, under which it provided needed assistance to asylum-seekers,” including help traveling to the destinations where they would wait for their claims to be processed. Plaintiffs said as a result of that policy change, asylum-seekers were released without food, health care or transportation and local entities had to step in.

In a 115-page order filed Tuesday, Judge James Browning found that the Department of Homeland Security was acting within its discretion when it chose to end the program.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the order in a news release Thursday, saying the federal government had prevailed in the lawsuit and that the judge determined that DHS fully complied with the law.

The court also determined that sovereign immunity protected the federal government from liability and that the government’s policies satisfied the Due Process Clause and other constitutional standards.

“New Mexico and Albuquerque may wish that the United States share their concern for asylees’ wellbeing. The Tenth Amendment, however, protects the States from being forced to adopt, carry out, or enforce federal policy; it does not require the United States to adopt, carry out, or enforce the States’ preferred policies,” the judge wrote.

According to the order, the defendants asserted that in response to the end to the Safe Release Program, New Mexico and Albuquerque “took it upon themselves to fulfill some type of humanitarian aid which is commendable” but was not at the federal government’s behest.

The plaintiffs said that in 2019, the government released around 9,000 asylum-seekers in Las Cruces and 4,700 in Deming. Albuquerque, too, had a dramatic influx of asylum-seekers.

“In order to prevent a potentially significant humanitarian and/or public health crisis, New Mexico state and local governments have been forced to step in and provide the basic assistance to these people that the federal government has callously (and without prior warning) refused to provide at a cost of millions of dollars,” the city and state argued in their lawsuit.

The city and state did not respond to requests for comment on the dismissal.

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