Las Cruces, NM – A city whose leaders previously voted to affirm a number of immigrant-friendly policies is clamoring for handouts in an attempt to provide for the droves of supposed asylum-seekers who continue to arrive into their community.
“It’s an incredible journey for these people from Central America,” Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima told the Las Cruces Sun News.
“It’s hard to understand what they must be going through, to leave everything behind and try to start a different life,” Miyagishima added. “I wish we had the resources to help them more but we’re doing the best we can.”
For several months, local churches have been providing temporary assistance to immigrants who have been released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while their cases are pending, the Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, the U.S. Border Patrol announced that it would be releasing processed illegal aliens into Texas and southern New Mexico due to “capacity issues,” according to the Associated Press.
Border patrol vans unloaded nearly 100 immigrants at the Gospel Rescue Mission on Friday, the Las Cruces Sun News reported.
The city issued a request for donations of blankets, clothing, food, toiletries, water, towels and foam for bedding to help provide for the waves of people as they filled up shelters, churches, and a recreation center.
Another 78 immigrants were brought into the city before noon on Saturday, and at least 160 more arrived on Sunday, the Las Cruces Sun News reported.
City officials said they expect the pattern to continue “for the next several days,” city spokesperson Udell Vigil told the paper.
“They’re talking about people coming all night long, 24/7,” Meerscheidt Recreation Center program manager Barry Russell said.
The recreation center has been closed to Las Cruces residents indefinitely in order to accommodate the immigrants.
The Red Cross and the local fire department brought in cots due to the influx, and volunteers arrived to help set up transportation to link the immigrants up with family members or sponsors throughout the country.
Trucks delivering food donations have been pouring in, but some facilities do not have kitchen areas to prepare meals.
“Our biggest problem now is who is going to feed them,” Russell said.
Gospel Rescue Mission executive director Henry Young said the shelter has been “inundated” with donations.
“It’s been fantastic,” Young said. “I don’t want to tell people to stop because we never know how much we will need.”
But many people were also frustrated that the wave of donations focused on helping immigrants instead of the impoverished members of the Las Cruces community.
“We’re struggling,” a woman told the Las Cruces Sun News on Saturday. “We’re barely getting by.”
The Las Cruces City Council is expected to decide whether or not it will approve a proposal to allocate $75,000 in taxpayer dollars to assist in the effort on Monday.
Meanwhile, the New Mexico Department of Heath issued an appeal for medical professionals to volunteer to take turns “providing medical screening support services to migrants in New Mexico,” the Associated Press reported.
“We need more,” New Mexico Medial Reserve Corps volunteer coordinator Bobbie MacKenzie of the health department’s request. “We’re trying…not to inundate and overwhelm the volunteers.”
Another 160 immigrants are expected to be dropped off in Las Cruces on Monday, city manager Stuart Ed told the Las Cruces Sun News.
The city is unable to accommodate more than 160 people per day, Ed said.
In 2017, the Las Cruces city council voted to prohibit local police from asking suspects about their immigration status unless such questioning was necessary for a criminal investigation, New Mexico In Depth reported.
“We enforce criminal law,” Las Cruces then-Police Chief Jaime Montoya told the council at the time. “We do not enforce administrative law, which is immigration law.”