Gov. Lujan Grisham presents first-ever Governor’s Humanitarian Award to Deming, Luna County
SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the city of Deming and Luna County “shining examples of humanitarianism” and the “very best of New Mexico’s compassionate spirit” Monday night as she honored them for caring for immigrant families and children who were abandoned at the border by federal immigration officials.
Lujan Grisham presented the city and county with the 2019 Governor’s Humanitarian Award during a ceremony at the governor’s residence in Santa Fe.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began detaining asylum seekers at border crossings last spring. When those detention facilities ran out of room beginning in April, immigration officials began busing the overflow immigrants to New Mexico communities like Deming, where families and even unaccompanied children were released to fend for themselves. Most arrived hungry and exhausted.
The town of 14,000 responded by opening a humanitarian shelter at the county fairgrounds, then filling it with cots and stockpiles of donated diapers, toiletries and clothing for the new arrivals, who were mostly from Latin America. The governor and her staff visited Deming to support the response efforts in May.
“Deming and Luna County were set upon by the federal government’s haphazard release strategies without a moment’s notice,” Lujan Grisham said. “They were called upon in a moment of extreme duress, without any capacity to plan or prepare a response, and they not only managed the crisis but excelled.”
At one point, Deming was spending about $15,000 a day on immigrants. The state of New Mexico allocated emergency grant funding, appropriated by the state Legislature, to help foot the bill in southwestern New Mexico and other affected jurisdictions.
“The debt of gratitude New Mexicans owe to Deming, Luna County and all affected border communities can never be repaid,” Lujan Grisham said, noting that community members and civic leaders in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County also responded heroically to the influx. The latter two jurisdictions were honored earlier this month.
“In response to an urgent need, these community members, civic leaders and local governments did not hesitate: They stepped up,” the governor said. “Their service has been a demonstration that no matter what happens, in New Mexico, we will do whatever it takes to solve the problem. We don’t complain. We don’t point fingers. We just do the work.”
Chris Brice, director of the Luna County Detention Center and one of the shelter organizers, accepted the award on behalf of hundreds of volunteers.
“They dedicated themselves – and oftentimes their own resources – to this extremely worthy cause,” Brice said.
Deming Mayor Benny Jasso said his town learned from the events of the summer.
“This was an effort which taught us many lessons, one of which is how blessed we are to be New Mexicans and have so many great neighbors,” Jasso said.
Lujan Grisham praised the people of Deming and Luna County for setting aside politics in the face of starving children, mothers in need and families that had traveled thousands of dangerous miles seeking shelter and protection in the United States.
“There are asylum seekers in the country today whose lives were saved or permanently changed for the better because of the dedicated, apolitical service of community members in Deming and Luna County,” Lujan Grisham said. “Deming and Luna County showed us that irrespective of political differences, children and families come first.”
“New Mexicans all along the border responded to the crisis on their doorstep without thought for reward or compensation; they did it because it had to be done,” the governor added. “For that reason, they are eminently worthy recipients of the first-ever Governor’s Humanitarian Award.”