Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – As New Mexico continues to deal with raging wildfires that have charred more than 900 square miles of land, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked a Cabinet official in President Joe Biden’s administration to delay a plan to transport migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border region to Albuquerque and other interior cities.
In a Tuesday letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Democratic governor said New Mexico and other states would “bear the brunt” of adverse economic and social impacts if a planned relocation effort is carried through.
“While I understand the difficulty the department faces in managing the flow of migrants at the southern border in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, I have serious concerns regarding the department’s readiness to address the influx of individuals who are poised to enter New Mexico if further preparation is not undertaken,” Lujan Grisham said in her letter.
Amid a recent surge of asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently crafted a plan to address overcrowding at the border by transporting migrants to cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Albuquerque, according to NBC News.
However, details about when such a relocation effort might begin and how many individuals could be transported to different interior cities to await immigration court hearings have not been publicly announced.
Lujan Grisham, who last year said New Mexico stood ready to accommodate refugees seeking asylum after fleeing from Afghanistan, said the wildfires burning this year amid severe drought conditions have taxed state agencies that provide support services.
Already, the governor has declared emergencies in seven New Mexico counties due to wildfires and has authorized up to $45 million in emergency spending for firefighting efforts, supplies and more, though that spending could eventually be reimbursed by the federal government.
For that reason, Lujan Grisham said she would not allow state resources to be used on immigration-related expenses.
“I cannot allow communities in the state of New Mexico to shoulder additional burdens falling squarely within the federal government’s purview,” Lujan Grisham said.
Meanwhile, the letter comes less than a month after Lujan Grisham met with Mayorkas and other top federal officials in Washington, D.C., about wildfire relief funding and other issues.
It also comes as the governor is seeking reelection to a second four-year term.
Mark Ronchetti, her Republican opponent in the general election, described Lujan Grisham’s letter on Tuesday as an “election year stunt.”
“It’s no surprise she now wants to delay the relocation until after the election, while doing nothing to change the policies that encourage illegal immigrants to cross the border and come to New Mexico,” said Ronchetti, who has in recent months criticized Lujan Grisham for removing National Guard troops from the state’s southern border after taking office in 2019.
In response, a Lujan Grisham spokeswoman said the governor’s request to Mayorkas was not a political one, saying the “millions of dollars” spent by the state on border-related humanitarian aid efforts in 2019 are now being targeted at wildfire relief and recovery programs.
In addition, the governor’s campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer accused Ronchetti of minimizing the hardships of wildfire victims.
She also said his attempts to score “partisan political points” show the type of governor he would be if elected in November.