State, city of Albuquerque open facilities at Expo New Mexico to assist asylum-seeking families
ALBUQUERQUE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller on Tuesday announced a partnership aimed at alleviating some of the pressure in New Mexico’s southern border communities, particularly Las Cruces, which has developed as a result of federal agents transporting an increasing number of asylum-seeking migrant families to the city.
Existing dormitories located at Expo New Mexico, a state facility, will be opened to provide temporary accommodations for some of these families. A network of faith-based and community partners will continue to provide food and water as well as medical services and transportation to asylum-seeking migrants. Families will be brought to the facility with coordination help from the city of Albuquerque for temporary housing in the next few weeks.
The dorms at the state fairgrounds — with beds and kitchen facilities already on site — will serve as an interim stopping point for migrant families as they move through New Mexico and onto their ultimate destinations with their host families.
Previously scheduled events at the fairgrounds will continue as planned, with little to no impact from the additional use of the facility. It is anticipated that no individual or family will remain at the facility for more than approximately 72 hours while travel to their ultimate destination within the United States is being arranged. Travel will be paid for by asylees or their sponsors.
The federal government has recently dropped off hundreds of families in various New Mexico communities who have legally presented themselves at the border seeking asylum. The federal government has not provided shelter or timely adjudication at the border leaving migrants without any means to make arrangements to get to their sponsors or family members in the United States. Faith-based and community groups have raised money and volunteered to fill these gaps. Using the facilities at Expo will reduce the costs for assisting community groups.
“We have seen a tremendous outpouring of community support all across New Mexico as we respond to the humanitarian needs at our southern border,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “Volunteers, donors and nonprofit organizations — not to mention tireless city, county and state workers — have stepped into the breach. In addition to this site, we will continue to explore all appropriate means of response. These asylum-seekers are primarily women and children and are not a danger to us; they need rest, hydration and minor medical check-ups before they resume their journeys. I’m proud of the courageous nonprofit network that has done such incredible work on the border and in Albuquerque. I’m gratified by the work of my team and Mayor Keller and his team, as well as Mayor Webber in Santa Fe and Mayor Miyagishima in Las Cruces. All have shown persistence and diligence in identifying productive solutions together. That work will continue.”
“For the last several weeks, Burqueños of every faith, ethnicity, and background have come together where the federal government has failed, to make sure the asylum seekers traveling legally through our community have the basic needs of human dignity met,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “As the only major hub city in the state with significant air and ground transport, the reality is that asylum seekers will be traveling through Albuquerque whether we help them or they are simply left on the streets. So the question is ‘how,’ not ‘whether,’ we are going to handle the effects of what is happening at the border. In our city, the volunteers and organizations already helping are our neighbors, our communities of faith, and often our friends and family, and with the governor’s support, we are able to assist and keep their humanitarian efforts going. Supporting our friends and neighbors who are doing the right thing while we continue to prioritize our community’s own challenges is not an ‘either/or’ question. We are going to continue our critical public safety work while also standing for the families lawfully traveling through the Duke City to join their sponsors around the country and seek a better life.”
“Expo New Mexico has a proud and well-established history of providing shelter and accommodations for people in need,” said Dan Mourning, director of Expo New Mexico. “Expo New Mexico can provide a practical and humane solution through the use of dormitory space, and we are prepared to house dozens of individuals at a time as they make a temporary stop on their way to long-term housing with sponsor families in other states.”
“I join with our interfaith and ecumenical communities in applauding Albuquerque’s city leaders for lending a helping hand to the many volunteers who have donated their time to assist our brothers and sisters in need,” Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe said. “Jesus gave us an example of welcoming the stranger in our midst. The actions of the city of Albuquerque embody this model.”
“This opportunity will provide our local organizations the space to operate efficiently and effectively, providing high-quality services that are sustainable,” said Aaron DuBay, director of Lutheran Family Services’ Rocky Mountains office in Albuquerque.
The governor has also called on statewide union leadership to assist with humanitarian efforts for immigrant families seeking asylum. IAFF, AFT, AFSCME, CWA, IATSE, NEA, Teamsters and the New Mexico Federation of Labor will respond with basic necessities.
People in Albuquerque and elsewhere wishing to assist can contact Catholic Charities or visit the city’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs here to learn more. Those wishing to assist the community groups in Las Cruces can make a donation to the Diocese of Las Cruces, reference OakTree. Any reference to Oaktree will ensure donations will be applied to the local efforts there, specifically staffing and transportation needs. Donations can also be made online here. Donors can also contact Gospel Rescue Mission or visit the nonprofit’s website.